Australian shipbuilding major Austal has received a decommissioned Royal Australian Navy Armidale-class patrol boat (ACPB) to use it for the testing and evaluation of autonomous and remotely operated systems.
The trial will establish robotic, automated and autonomous elements on a patrol boat, providing a proof-of-concept demonstrator, for optionally crewed or autonomous operations for the RAN into the future.
The trial will also explore the legal, regulatory pathways and requirements of operating an autonomous vessel at sea, Austal said.
PBAT couples Austal’s experience as the designer and manufacturer of the Armidale-class Patrol Boat (ACPB), with subcontractor L3Harris’ experience in autonomous vessel technology. With co-funding from the Commonwealth of Australia, guidance and support is provided from the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre.
Following the arrival of the vessel in Henderson, Western Australia, the re-named ‘Sentinel’ has entered the trial’s modification phase. In this stage, the vessel will be fitted with a variety of monitoring and control systems and technologies that enable autonomous and remote operations. Austal expects the vessel to be registered under Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) jurisdiction as a domestic commercial vessel from July 2023 to enable sea trials to begin in October 2023.