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£9 million available for future of Maritime Autonomous Systems - 30 July 2014


The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is making £9 million available to support the future of Maritime Autonomous Systems.

The Ministry of Defence through the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and in partnership with a number of associations and industry bodies is making funding available through four initiatives each addressing different areas of maritime autonomy.

Autonomy in Maritime Unmanned Vehicles offers the potential to transform the manner in which many activities are conducted at sea such as the clearance of sea mines and persistent wide area surveillance.

Philip Smith, Affordable Maritime Presence Programme Manager at Dstl says:

"The opportunities presented by Maritime Autonomous Systems are very exciting. However if we are to fully exploit these opportunities we need to invest in key areas such as 'Supervised Autonomy' and 'Deployment & Recovery' in order to meet future requirements and position the UK as a world leader in next generation Maritime Mission Systems. The funding we are making available through these four initiatives is a significant step towards achieving this."


Maritime Autonomous Systems Technology Competition: Sponsored by Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, this competition addresses Underwater Unmanned Vehicles and Unmanned Surface Vehicles for defence applications and is directed at small and medium-sized enterprises in the Solent that can create or safeguard jobs in the local defence supply chain. The total funding available is worth £1 million and awards will be made for projects of up to £75,000 in value. The competition closes in April 2015.

Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research Competition: Addressing unmanned system enablers for all environments this competition, sponsored by Dstl, is worth £1.5 million. Open from September 2014 for a year, the competition will award projects of around £250,000 to be split into 2 phases.

Adaptive Autonomous Ocean Sampling Networks Competition: A Small Business Research Initiative competition sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and Dstl addressing the tracking of dynamic maritime features with unmanned vehicles. With a total of £1.5 million available the competition is open from September 2014 for 18 months and will award projects of around £250,000 to be split into 2 phases.

Towards Excellence in Maritime Autonomous Systems: Recently announced by the Minister for Portsmouth, Matthew Hancock, the competition sponsored by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, and Dstl addresses Maritime Unmanned Vehicles for defence and civil applications. Open from October 2014 for 3 years the competition is worth £5 million and will award projects of between £500,000 and £1.5 million directed to collaborative, business-led, consortia.



Sir David Pepper took up his appointment as the new Chair of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Board on 1 August 2014. He has a background in defence and security issues, having been Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) from 2003 to 2008.




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MUNIN - Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks


Drones do it and spacecraft have done it many years. Recently automobile makers have put their first autonomous cars on the streets. Small boats do it also: Unmanned vessels on the ocean is no longer a dream – it is a reality, with a time frame of around ten years to acceptance.

The MUNIN project is investigating potential concepts for a fully or partially unmanned merchant vessel. The initial case study vessel, is a dry bulk carrier of handymax size, operating on routes between Europe and South America. The project is being partly funded by the EU in pursuit of one of the project outcomes of the European Waterborne Strategic Research Agenda: The autonomous ship. But what is an autonomous ship, where true autonomy demands self sufficiency, which should include energy. For now the phrase is being used to describe diesel powered craft that are unmanned. These vessels are in no way truly autonomous.





The Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML (Fraunhofer CML) is situated at the Hamburg University of Technology in Hamburg, Germany. Fraunhofer CML homepage  Hans-Christoph Burmeister, is the project coordinator at Fraunhofer CML


The Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (MARINTEK), Trondheim, Norway. MARINTEK is a company in the SINTEF Group, one of Europe’s largest independent research institutions.  MARINTEK homepage


Chalmers University of Technology is a Swedish university located in Gothenburg that focuses on research and education in technology, natural science, and architecture. Chalmers homepage


Hochschule Wismar – University of Applied Sciences Technology: Department of Maritime Studies is part of the faculty of Engineering at Hochschule Wismar, situated in Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany. They are exerts in simulator training as full mission ship handling carried out by Professors and lecturers with license management levels such as Master of a ship or Chief Engine Officer.  Hochschule Wismar homepage


Aptomar AS is a Norwegian company located in Trondheim specialising in marine sensor systems such as the SECurus system that combines advanced stabilized long range IR and digital video cameras with an Electronic Chart System which overlays information of several sources for a speedy evaluation of real time situations for good response.  Aptomar AS homepage


MarineSoft Entwicklungs- und Logistikgesellschaft mbH is an internationally operating provider for maritime software solutions, located in Rostock-Warnemünde, Germany. It offers state-of-the-art solutions in the field of maritime simulation of machinery plants, computer based training applications, information and operation systems, consultancy and courseware.  MarineSoft homepage


Marorka ehf is a leading provider of energy management solutions for the international shipping industry with it’s headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland. Marorka’s products and services enable vessel operators to optimize fuel consumption by maximizing the energy efficiency of their vessel or fleet.  Marorka ehf homepage  On 16 June 2012, Marorka signed an agreement with seven leading specialist firms and research institutes in the shipping sector participating in the MUNIN research project - Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks.

University College Cork UCC is situated in south-west Ireland and was founded as a Queen’s College in 1845. The Law Department at UCC is at the forefront of legal research in Ireland, the EU and internationally in various areas, including environmental law, human rights, marine law, business law, comparative law, constitutional law and legal theory.  UCC homepage







The available budget is of 3.8 million EUR in total whereby 2.9 million EUR is funded by the EU. The MUNIN project has been started on 01.09.2012 and will be finished in three years time.



Partly or fully unmanned ships offer many possible benefits, but one of the main driving forces for the project has been the problem of recruiting sufficiently qualified crew members. This is already a significant problem in Europe, and it will increase as “slow Steaming” becomes more widespread to save fuel. Lower speeds and longer voyage durations will increase the overall demand for crew while reducing the attractiveness of the job: staying at sea for three weeks or more and communicating with friends and family via cost intensive telecommunication systems.

The idea of a ship sailing without a look-out and helmsman is worrying and even frightening to many people. One important part of the project, therefore, is to show that unmanned ships can be at least as safe as conventional vessels, and may even be safer. Professionals agree that “human error” is the cause of between 65 and 90% of shipping accidents. While the definition of human error and the role played in it by technology can be discussed, there is arguably great potential for improving safety by relieving the crew of the most tedious tasks, such as keeping a look-out over open sea for three weeks at a stretch. The MUNIN project will employ the KISS principle: Keep it Simple and Stupid! It is important that the technology employed is well-tried and trustworthy. It is also important to use the appropriate technology for the problems at hands.






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