MAST - Maritime Sense and Avoid Systems & Technologies for Unmanned Surface Vessels

Predicting future needs and the technology needed to achieve those needs



Introduction: background of the invitation to tender

Sense and avoid is obviously a critical capability to all UMS (Unmanned Maritime Systems). They need to achieve an adequate and continuous awareness of other water users or obstacles in their vicinity. The situation needs to be either evaluated on board or transferred to an operator in the case of remotely operated UMS and analysed on board for (semi) autonomous UMS. 

The result of the study is important since the maritime community may need to convince stakeholders that unmanned maritime systems operations with nobody on board are possible. There may be a need to demonstrate to IMO or other organizations that situation awareness capability is sufficient and ideally almost independent on environment conditions.

The outcome will have a significant impact on European collaborative initiatives with Maritime Mines Counter Measures being a first possible example. It should contribute to the interoperability of different European systems. It could also pave the way for the achievement of a common understanding on a future European family of SA systems for UMS. 

Last but not least, the result is expected to contribute to the Best Practice Guide for Unmanned Maritime Systems Handling, Operations, Design and Regulations being developed by the SARUMS group.

Description of the subject and scope of the contract

The aim of this study will be to provide the EU Maritime community with a rigorous informed view of SA system and their potential to ensure safe UMS operations. The study shall attempt to present an overview of the relevant technologies, group and assess them in accordance with a Sense and Avoid Policy defining a the safety level for UMS, type of technology, sensors or usage for the benefit of future standardization as well as to take into account needs for different types of UMS.

Sense and avoid may be viewed as being part of situation awareness. Situation awareness is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time Situation awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future. Lack of, or inadequate situation awareness is obviously an issue for UMS. A situation awareness system also includes the means to be able to decide on how to act, normally to achieve a safe state. Avoid may be a typical action, but several other options could exist.

It is understood that situation awareness may also be derived as part of a broad capability that extends into sophisticated mission and task specific operational needs, such as the ability to classify objects as threat or friendly. However, for the scope of this study the awareness shall be focused primarily on sense and avoid function understood as systems to satisfy safety and navigational needs.

Situational awareness is often illustrated as part of the OODA loop which includes the sequential event loop of Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. The focus of this study shall be around systems capable of Observe-Orient-Decide. The Act, to act, is important enough but whatever action is needed would be taken care of by other functions and systems outside of the scope of this study. Orient-Decide is of particular importance for the higher autonomy control level systems (autonomous control). An operator is assumed to be capable to cover Orient-Decide for lower control levels (remote control).

A capable UMS Sense and Avoid system should fulfil the following:

• Observe: Detect objects within a required awareness zone with no limitations due sea state or reduced visibility. Separate objects of different size. Determine if objects are stationary or moving. USV needs to cover water surface as well as underwater to some extent. UUV needs to cover the water volume. COLREG requires both seeing and 

• Orient: Capability to conduct a proper analysis of the situation. Analysis to determine if there is a risk for collision. Capability to present options on how to act.

• Decide: Capability to take optimum decision for the current situation. Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) may also be part of UMS, but for the purpose of this study UMS shall be limited to include Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV).



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