Autonomous Warrior 2018:

Major air, land and sea exercise at Jervis Bay, NSW

The Autonomous Warrior 2018 (AW18) activity to be held in Jervis Bay NSW 5-23 November provides the Defence Science & Technology Group, ADF, Australian and the international defence industry, with an opportunity to demonstrate, display and exhibit innovations in autonomous and unmanned systems or technologies that could support ADF operations such as combat at sea, regional security, military support and amphibious action.

Somewhat confusingly, in the UK, the British Land Forces are also running their Autonomous Warrior 2018 at the same time. A release from their Ministry of Defence stated ‘Autonomous Warrior, the 2018 Army Warfighting Experiment, a four-week exercise starting on 12 November, will push the boundaries of technology and military capability in the land environment. And one of the key areas it is set to test is the autonomous last mile resupply. The “last mile”, which represents the extremely dangerous final approach to the combat zone, is crucial to ensuring soldiers have the food, fuel and ammunition to keep them alive.’

As far as APDR can ascertain there is no connection between the Australian and UK exercises.

AW18 will provide Defence with the opportunity to understand the current state of the art deployable autonomous systems and their control in the maritime domain. 

During AW18 over 450 personnel will be maintaining, operating and observing platforms and systems, as well as providing military Exercise Control capability to ensure safe operations. Participants will include Defence scientists, naval personnel, industry representatives and researchers as well as military operators from Australia, United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand and Canada, known as the Five Eyes (FVEYS).

When APDR asked about Australian preparedness for AW18, Professor Jason Scholz, Defence Science &Technology’s AW18 leader, and chair of the TTCP (The Technology Co-operation Programme within the FVEYS Community) Autonomy Strategic Challenge, he responded:

“We achieved a world-first successful interoperability test of simultaneous uninhabited vehicle assets in the air, land, sea-surface and sea-subsurface domains in June-July 2018 in Jervis Bay.”

A DST spokesperson told APDR that the leading AW18 participants who are involved with the TTCP Autonomy Strategic Challenge include the United States Air Force Research Laboratory, the United States Navy Space and Naval Warfare, Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group, New Zealand’s’ Defence Technology Agency (DTA), the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and Canada’s Defense Research and Development Canada.

More than 50 Australian industry participants ranging from subject matter experts to primes will demonstrate novel semi-autonomous platforms and systems.

 

AW18 exercises, the Industry Dynamic Exhibition (IDE), and the “Wizard of Aus” are all planned to increase understanding of the capabilities that are implicit in autonomous systems. They will address concerns which have been expressed in recent years that these systems aren’t resilient enough, they aren’t smart enough, and that people don’t trust them. In nowhere that APDR has read are there any suggestions that future deployment of autonomous systems by Five Eyes (FVEYS) defence forces will occur without human-in-the-loop control either directly by remote piloting or by setting of waypoints and mission parameters.

PLANNED EXERCISE

Among scenarios which could be exercised in the Jervis Bay area of operations, in addition to alignment with capability components, Defence has previously publicly expressed interest in autonomous or unmanned systems or technologies that align with any of the following 11 scenarios:

  • Counter Submarine Incursion
  • Sea Defence
  • Counter Piracy
  • Counter Arms Smuggling
  • Oil Terminal Blockade by Mining
  • Oil Terminal Infrastructure Attack
  • Base Attack
  • Base Defence
  • Support to Ground Forces
  • Containing Civil Unrest
  • Clandestine Insertion from Sea

 

Platforms will include uninhabited and semi-autonomous air, land, sea-surface and underwater vehicles. Autonomy in the Command and Control will be integrated with, and used to assist human decision-making to achieve a “force multiplier”. The focus will be on coordinated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) activities for several use cases. Novel software developed by TTCB between FVEYS governments will be trialled and tested. Novel software and platforms developed by Australian industry will also be demonstrated live and in static display.

 

“Wizard of Aus” is not a competition, but rather one large team of more than 100 people from five countries, including Australian industry SMEs. The Autonomy Strategic Challenge is a FVEYS TTCP trial that started in 2014. The series of trials and tests in the UK, US and Australia leading to the final test in Jervis Bay was termed the “Wizard Series”. The final test is called the “Wizard of Aus”.

 

The Autonomy Strategic Challenge purpose is to examine the ability for a single operator to manage multiple semi-autonomous systems across air, land, sea and undersea environments, thereby demonstrating a force multiplier. It uses scientific understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of human and machine decision-making in order to offset the strengths of one against the weaknesses of the other, reduce cognitive load on the operator and improve speed and responsiveness. The trial will evaluate and seek feedback from military operators to assess this potential.

 

The “Wizard of Aus” Trial uses software developed by the FVEYS. The following describes a few of the many software components that will be involved:

 

  • Policy verification tool that affords policy-based authority controls. In operation, a number of checks are applied to the current course of action laydown and violations regarding airspace, air vehicle, route deconfliction, emergency route recovery, track handovers and communication relays. It is advisory in nature, and it is left to the operator to determine how or whether to respond to any noted policy violations.
  • Recommender system, a hybrid machine learning decision aid that continually monitors the system state for potentially important events and suggests a response. The recommendation can be made up of one or more high-level courses of action, and is based on previous experience, heuristics, and learned responses that have been rated highly in similar situations in the past. As a particular course of action plays out, the recommender system continues to learn and monitor the system for any additional system state changes that would require a modified source of action, allowing human cognitive focus to move elsewhere.
  • Narrative system, developed to support comprehension (assessment of situations) and projection (assessment of threats) aspects of situation awareness, modelled on a news service paradigm using virtual human characters. The generated narrative is structured to provide contextual information to aid in user comprehension, and it adapts as the user interacts with the system. The Narrative system interface is composed of three elements:
  • an animated virtual human character (avatar);
  • a geospatial tile with coordinated camera and scene control; and
  • a web-page of the complete generated narrative. The real-time speech narrative generation is supplemented with display of relevant imagery, video or other content to help “explain the story”.

 

The DST spokesperson explained to APDR that:

 

“The Wizard trial has many layers of control in order to ensure safety. Semi-Autonomous vehicles will remain under the control of their ground control stations for safety, but will be tasked under the control of human operators using a combat system endowed with artificial intelligence and Autonomy. The entire system will be subject to independent Exercise Control with dozens of Australian Defence Force staff and systems.”

 

UK PARTICIPATION IN THE AW18 EXERCISE PHASE

 

APDR asked Stuart Hider, QinetiQ UK’s Director Maritime Programmes, whose organisation took a leading role in the Unmanned Warrior 2016 (UW16) exercise off the coast of Scotland, to explain what they and their UK partners have done in preparing for AW18. He said:

 

“Through effective collaboration we are building on the success of the MAPLE system that was first seen at Unmanned Warrior 16 and have continued to enhance its capabilities through the latest phase of the programme. Deployment to Australia provides the opportunity further test the system in multi-vehicle, multi-environment scenarios.  It is a challenge the team have relished and taken in their stride.  They continue to unlock the system’s potential”.

 

QinetiQ supplied this statement to APDR about their participation in AW18:

 

‘The Maritime Autonomous PLatform Exploitation (MAPLE) project, spearheaded by QinetiQ UK, on behalf of the UK MoD Defence Science and Technology laboratory (Dstl) and in partnership with BAE Systems, SeeByte and Thales, seeks to demonstrate and de-risk the integration of multiple Unmanned Vehicles (UxVs) into the combat system of a Royal Navy warship.  Part of this work involves participation in The TTCP autonomy strategic challenge with a series of synthetic and live experiments and demonstrations.

 

‘The culmination of this work is the “Wizard of Aus” trials in Jervis Bay, Australia this November.  Working alongside Dstl and with other TTCP partners a series of scenarios within the wider Autonomous Warrior demonstrations have been designed. These demonstrations are being run by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group with support by the Royal Australian Navy.  As such there will be a wide range of vehicles and products at differing levels of maturity. The scenarios involve maritime, land and air assets undertaking a range of missions.

 

‘The “Wizard of Aus” will build on what was achieved at UW16.  Key developments within the MAPLE command and control (C2) system include more advanced autonomy, much greater integration between the Tier 1 (high-level) and Tier 2 mission planners and greatly improved UxV asset and payload status monitoring to enhance operator situational awareness.

 

‘We now have the ability to task (or vary tasking of) assets in mission on station, and have introduced support for STANAG 4586 for asset monitoring and payload control.  Air gaps from UW16 have been removed and we now better support end-to-end C2 of UxV assets and their payloads (planning, execution/monitoring, post mission analysis), with the focus being on track-based control of UxV assets, digital launch of UxV assets, and digital control of UxV payloads.

 

‘In terms of new components, the MAPLE software has been integrated with IMPACT; a mission planner and product of the US Air Force Research Labs, together with other supporting tools from the TTCP nations.  This includes the UK COMPACT system, which acts as a policy guard, policing the operation of the autonomous software.  MAPLE has further received a number of updated commercial tools supporting autonomous operations, such as the NEPTUNE product, as well as autonomy updates to the Royal Navy’s Combat Management System (CMS).

 

‘We have also introduced other enhanced situational awareness tools, such as Digital Supervisor, which brings together on a single display, the planning and monitoring for autonomous systems.  During the rehearsal phases for “Wizard of Aus” we achieved the display of live tracks of unmanned surface, underwater and ground vehicles, as well as sonar contact information, all passed through into the MAPLE CMS.  In simple terms, this means that we are making real progress towards the goal of achieving interoperable multi-vehicle, multi-environment capabilities – all tasked and managed by a small team of shipborne operators integrated into the wider naval combat system.’

 

Speaking at a recent Royal Navy Maritime Autonomous Systems Conference, Dr Philip Smith, Above Water Systems Programme Manager at Dstl, said:

“It is the Royal Navy’s intention to lead and win through the innovative and robust exploitation of maritime autonomous systems.  The MAPLE work is the route by which this vision is turned into reality.”

 

INDUSTRY DYNAMIC EXHIBITION (IDE)

 

With more than 50 Expressions of Interest were received from Australian industry resulting in 21 companies participating in the IDE.

 

The aim of the AW18 IDE is to provide industry with an opportunity to display and exhibit innovation in autonomous and unmanned systems or technologies that may be suitable to support the ADF including in maritime, littoral and land operations, and complex and contested environments – such as combat at sea, regional security, military support and amphibious action.

 

At AW18 there will be static displays as well as dynamic demonstrations in the Jervis Bay environment. A select set of Australian SMEs are supporting the TTCP Autonomy Strategic Challenge with the FVEYS partners, including DefendTex, Ocius, Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) and Silvertone.

 

Items that will be on static display during AW18 include:

 

  • Kratos Defense Australia – BQM-177i UAS and the MQM-178 Firejet UAS;
  • Thales Australia Ltd – Deployable Mine Countermeasures, Thales Remote ASW Sonar System, UAV and Mission Payloads, MTUAS integration into Frigate Combat System;
  • Ron Allum Deepsea Services Pty Ltd – Sun Ray Glider; and
  • Zone Products Australia Pty Ltd – Portable drone detection module WINGMAN 103, and counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology.

 

EPE, from Brisbane, are known for their innovative approaches. At Army Innovation Day 2016 their Scimitar Human Factors Performance / Mission Analysis system was awarded a $960K trial over 12 months. Sponsored by the Defence Innovation Hub, their $1 million Prototype funding for Portable Standoff Explosive and Narcotic detection to support Navy’s counter narcotic projects in the Middle East starts with Navy sea trials in October this year. Their $250K Defence Innovation Hub project ‘Taking the Soldier off the side of road for Road Side Bomb Detection – Integrating Amulet Ground Penetrating Radar onto in-service EOD Unmanned Ground Vehicles’ was successfully completed in March 2018. They will be demonstrating route clearance at AW18.

 

Boeing is a major participant in the IDE. Andrew Duggan Managing Director Insitu Pacific told APDR:

 

 

“Boeing, inclusive of key subsidiaries, Insitu Pacific, Liquid Robotics and DRT, Inc., will demonstrate a seabed to space approach to leveraging UxVs at AW18. While focus at previous demonstrations like Unmanned Warrior has been heavily on platforms, the aim of Boeing’s efforts at AW18 is to focus on multi-domain C2 of UxVs inclusive of one to many control, and how fusing the data gathered by those platforms can deliver major capability growth for RAN with minimal personnel footprint and training. It is vital the next generation of RAN vessels now being fielded are able to make maximum use of reliable and connected UxVs to drive significant increases in operational effectiveness, and we believe Boeing has much to offer in achieving this goal.”

 

Echo Voyager (EV) is a Boeing-developed first-in-class Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV), on static display, that can be launched and recovered from a pier and is purposely designed to support long duration at-sea autonomous operation with large modular payload volume. Key design features:

  • Host ship independent
  • Fully autonomous
  • 6500 nm range
  • Designed for months of “on station” operation

The EV XLUUV provides a versatile force multiplier platform augmenting undersea forces.  EV is capable of performing the dull, dirty, and dangerous missions more suitable for a less expensive unmanned platform.  It can also better access areas denied to or difficult for a much larger, manned platform.

 

Automated Communications Electronic Support Measures System (ACES) is a compact, transportable and automated Communications ESM System (CES) that can operate standalone or be integrated with existing platform data feeds for improved situational awareness on a single display.  The ACES can provide SA data without need for specialized operators or significant size, weight, and power (SWaP). The system increases mission effectiveness   by increasing the speed of locating an event; cueing other platforms to an event; enhancing the awareness of each event and reducing the cost of operations (i.e. reduced number of platforms and manpower). The intent of the demonstration is to determine the role of ESM in locating nearby UxVs.  A successful outcome would demonstrate correlation between the exercise UxV activity and the ACES.

 

Digital Receiver Technology, Inc. (DRT), a subsidiary of The Boeing Company, designs and manufactures Software-Defined Radio (SDR) solutions. Founded in 1997, DRT is a leading supplier of RF hardware and embedded signal processing algorithms to the U.S. Government, select international partners and large-system integrators. DRT’’s modular, scalable, multi-channel, SDRs are ideal for manpack, mobile, and large-system operations spanning the air, land and sea. The DRT product line includes SDRs, Direction Finding (DF) antenna arrays and algorithms for calculating Lines-Of-Bearing (LOBs) to target emitters for geolocation applications.

 

Wave Glider is a long-endurance autonomous surface vehicle that provides persistent collection and communication of ocean data in a variety of maritime environments. Designed and manufactured by Liquid Robotics, a subsidiary of The Boeing Company, the Wave Glider harnesses wave energy for forward propulsion and collects solar energy to power onboard electronics. Multiple configurations for the Wave Glider have been employed in test & evaluation and operational scenarios including anti-submarine warfare (ASW), signals intelligence (SIGINT), and real-time communications gateways to submerged unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and seabed sensor nodes as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  In addition to the primary sensors, Wave Gliders are frequently equipped with oceanographic and meteorological sensors, and Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers as “hosted payloads.” These data streams provide valuable context for primary sensor data.  Multiple Wave Glider payloads, specifically the SIGINT and ASW variants, directly support the ADF mission areas.

 

APDR was informed by Darren Burrowes, founder and chief technology officer of BlueZone Group, Newcastle, that they have been selected to participate in IDE. This came about the same time the author learned at the LAND FORCES 2018 conference in Adelaide 4-6 September that they had won a Land Forces Innovation Award for their Z-Boat technology.

 

With the maritime focus of AW18 at Jervis Bay, BlueZone will demonstrate Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) and two Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) during the IDE:

 

Integrated Z-Boat The Z-Boat is an USV solution for inshore/littoral surveillance and rapid environmental awareness survey using integrated multibeam sonar and LiDAR systems. The Z-Boat will also be used to demonstrate remote visual surveillance capabilities using high resolution video, thermal and still cameras. Above and below water rapid environmental assessment and survey tasks can be completed including rapid evaluation and de-risking of the nearshore mine threat via integrated USV multibeam sonar system.

 

Envisaged scenario themes for the Z-Boat include: above and below water survey capabilities to support clandestine insertion from sea; counter arms-smuggling providing positional and feature data relevant to dumped/discarded arms to assist underwater recovery; and shallow water Mine Counter Measures (MCM) – rapid evaluation and de-risking of the nearshore mine threat via integrated USV multibeam sonar system. At the minefield clearance site, the Z-Boat will run an autonomous, multibeam shallow water mine-detection survey providing positional and feature data including mine-like objects.

 

Hydroid Next Generation Remus 100 and M3V Autonomous Underwater Vehicle The Next Generation REMUS 100 will be used to demonstrate through water communication. The REMUS 100 will detect mine-like objects (MLO) and transmit positional data of MLOs through water to the M3V AUV, acting as a covert gateway buoy to forward transmit the data ashore. This will enable real-time covert MCM detection and positional data reporting and covert rapid environmental assessment.

 

For AW18 the REMUS 100 can be used for seafloor survey for detection of mines, and/or smuggled arms.

 

The REMUS M3V is a compact, one-man portable AUV. It can achieve speeds of 10 knots and is equipped with an articulated tail control system and a positioning and navigation system in the standard configuration. REMUS M3V also has a variable centre of gravity allowing it to operate in a buoy mode. Outfitted with side scan sonar, the REMUS M3V has a multi-functional tail antenna that includes Iridium, Wi-Fi and a Flasher. The REMUS M3V is a low-logistics system that is compatible with existing survey and AUV capabilities.

 

IN CONCLUSION

 

Any readers who wonder about the relevance of AW18 and the Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS) Co-operative Research Centre to current defence projects, can be reassured that as well as looking out into options far out into the future, the results of AW18 and TAS will inform the following:

  • SEA1778 Deployable Mine Countermeasures: USV, UUV, SO
  • SEA1770 Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA)
  • SEA129 Tac 5 (OPV) spiral dev of autonomous systems, incl UGV ops & REA from OPV
  • SEA1179 Tac 1 MHC
  • SEA1180 OPV 2nd phase
  • SEA1397 Nulka replacement
  • AIR7000 Phase 2B – Maritime Patrol Aircraft Replacement Project
  • AIR7000 Phase 1B (Triton)

 

 

APDR is pleased to acknowledge the support of DST Group, Australian and international defence industry representatives, in preparing this article.

 

 

 

 

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