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QinetiQ brings autonomy expertise to European research programme


QinetiQ is to play a pivotal role in OCEAN2020, the first research programme awarded by the European Defence Agency as part of its European Defence Fund initiative.

Autonomy aerial view

On 12 January 2018, following a competitive selection process, the European Defence Agency announced the award of the OCEAN2020 contract to a consortium led by Leonardo, comprising 42 partners from 15 European countries. The programme will explore deeper integration of unmanned platforms in maritime surveillance missions, with QinetiQ contributing its expertise in the command and control of multiple autonomous vehicles. The activity will build on the success of 2016’s Unmanned Warrior multinational naval exercise. Bill Biggs, QinetiQ lead on Autonomy, said: “This is great news – it gives us a real platform to work with exciting partners, broadening and deepening what we achieved in Unmanned Warrior. We are investing significantly in this area, and collaborative international projects are a key part of our strategy.

The research programme will build up to two live demonstrations; the first in the Mediterranean in 2019 and the second in the Baltic in 2020, both involving navies from multiple nations. During the demonstrations, QinetiQ will deploy an enhanced version of the Autonomous Control Exploitation Realisation (ACER) system, built for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) under the Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation (MAPLE) programme. ACER will enable the integration of multiple unmanned platforms (fixed wing, rotary wing, surface and underwater) with naval units’ command and control centres.

Biggs added: “We are very pleased to have had the full support of Dstl and the Royal Navy as part of this proposal and look forward to working with them and the OCEAN2020 team in what will be a ground breaking project for maritime autonomy.”

Two smaller UK companies are partnering with QinetiQ as part of the project; Seiche Autonaut Ltd will provide their revolutionary wave powered unmanned surface vehicle and Blue Bear Systems Research will bring advanced autonomy software and their Blackstart unmanned air system.

For more information on OCEAN2020, visit the Leonardo website.