For three weeks in October 2016, the largest demonstration of unmanned and autonomous vehicles took place off the West Coast of Scotland and West Wales. The brain child of the Royal Navy, ‘Unmanned Warrior’ was developed to allow companies to showcase the capabilities of unmanned systems and evaluate their potential future use in military operations.
Over 40 organisations attended, 50 systems were demonstrated and 150 people visited from 20 nations. In total, over 100 missions were completed. The event broke records and exceeded expectations, proving that the potential of autonomous systems is not to be ignored. But it is the potential of the minds behind these systems that deserve the highest praise. For the records could not have been broken, nor expectations exceeded, without the humans behind the robots. Every vehicle requires the design, manufacturing and operational skills of a human being. These individuals are the real reason the event was the success it was.
18 members of the ASV Global team spent 3 weeks of their time supporting Unmanned Warrior. Their main role was to manage the 7 vessels that belonged to ASV Global’s customers including BAE Systems, Dstl, Thales and QinetiQ, providing them with invaluable technical and operational support on land and at sea.
Sea Based Operations
Former offshore supply ship SV Northern River was used to transport the vessels from Portsmouth to Fishguard and then into the Isle of Skye exercise area. ASV Global’s Unmanned Systems Developer Andy Jordan and Unmanned Systems R&D Lead Howard Tripp were based on the Northern River during the event, mainly operating from the bridge, and working closely with the Royal Navy, BAE Systems and Dstl. It was their responsibility to ensure all the unmanned boats based off Northern River were operating correctly, and to diagnose and fix any technical issues that may have arisen. Andy said “One day we discovered a problem with the heading reference sensor on one of the boats. Fortunately, with a small software upgrade and some re-configuration we were able to obtain heading from another sensor fitted to the boat to resolve the issue.”
Land Based Operations
ASV Global’s Head of Electrical Systems, Pete Byford, provided support on land from bases in Fishguard, Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh and Skye. The “Red Forces” Team Leader, Pete was responsible for managing the ASV Global land-based assets and staff. This involved planning day-to-day operations, driving the manned and unmanned vessels out to and during trials, transferring assets and staff between the various base locations and, most importantly, vessel maintenance. Pete shared his personal highlight of the event: “While we were simulating FIAC attacks on an MCM convoy, we were suddenly surrounded by a pod of more than 30 dolphins, swimming with our vessels.”
Manpower was also required during the trials themselves. Operations Technician Daniel Newport oversaw the vehicles during the MAF Phase 3 & Hell Bay 4 trials. Dan was responsible for maintaining the C-Worker 5 during the Hell Bay 4 trials and went on to join the Northern River team for the final week. Looking back at Unmanned Warrior, Dan said “It was great to collaborate with like-minded engineers and technicians from all over the world to achieve complex operational scenarios in a demanding environment.”
Operations Co-ordinator Glen Rostock was based at the BUTEC facility. His role supported the client Thales to successfully demonstrate an autonomous MCM capability, operating the Halcyon vessel and managing the on water safety of the vessel and crew. Operating in a challenging location for communications, reliable in-stride communications was achieved which made for a great event. Glen said “It was great working at an event where different aspects of the industry came together and to achieve great results.”
Overall Unmanned Warrior was a huge success for all involved, and the hard work, dedication and incredible effort from the people behind the machines are largely to thank for this.
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