A strategic partnership between the University of Southampton and Thales has developed a new form of mission management that enables human supervisors to run complex operations led by multiple autonomous vessels.

Thales, who setup their UK Centre of Autonomy at Turnchapel Wharf in 2018, have continued to develop cutting edge technology and testing it within their range of maritime autonomy projects. 

The Integrated Mission Management System (IMMS) project, led by Ship Science and Maritime Engineering lecturer Dr Jon Downes and Thales’ Ben Pritchard, is addressing current limitations around autonomous vessels that require one human controller per vehicle.

The joint team successfully tested the software package this winter with a three-vessel trial at Thales’ Maritime Autonomy Centre on the Plymouth waterfront. The engineers will now define further research before IMMS version 2.0 enters sea trials in September.

Professor Mark Spearing, Vice President (Research and Enterprise), told the event: “It is great to see the Thales and University of Southampton team come together so quickly in the form of the Integrated Mission Management System project. In the context of the Industry Strategy Challenge Fund programme from the Government, this engagement provides a strong exemplar of successful industry-university joint working.”

John Meston, Operations Director at Thales UK Research, Technology & Innovation, added: “Being here today is a celebration of this uniquely successful programme of work which we have jointly delivered with the University of Southampton. We see this partnership as playing a fundamental role in helping industry and Thales to understand the broader challenges associated with autonomy and its implementation into the real world.”

Phase 2 of the IMMS project will continue this year, when trials will again be undertaken at the Maritime Autonomy Centre at Turnchapel Wharf, Plymouth in September 2020.

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