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Austal Completes Sea Trials of Australia’s Sentinel Robotic Patrol Vessel

Austal has finalized the sea acceptance and endurance trials of the Royal Australian Navy’s Sentinel autonomous patrol vessel.

Held off the coast of Western Australia, the trials involved simultaneous autonomy and remote-controlled tests of the ship using Advanced Maritime Autonomy software developed by Perth-based tech firm Greenroom Robotics.

Crews and experts from the International Maritime Services were aboard the boat as it sailed throughout the area to evaluate the vehicle’s performance and response to unexpected deviations and manual interventions.

The trial also covered regulatory and legal matters to ensure the safety of the vessel’s autonomous operations.

Retired Patrol Boat to Demonstrator

The exercises support the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT) program, an initiative funded by Canberra to transform an old naval vessel into a robotic testbed for future autonomous efforts and associated prototyping tasks.

For this purpose, the Royal Australian Navy sent a decommissioned Armidale-class patrol boat, the former HMAS Maitland, to Austal in 2022.

It was then reconfigured into the largest system operated autonomously and remotely in the country.

‘Sentinel’, the former Royal Australian Navy HMAS Maitland.
‘Sentinel’, the former Royal Australian Navy HMAS Maitland. Photo: Austal Australia

The 57-meter (187-foot) ship incorporates modifications in bilges, navigation, surveillance cameras, and electrical systems to fully support PBAT operations, including modifications.

Additional on-board sensors and computer units were integrated to host autonomous systems powering the Sentinel.

Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial Program

Alongside autonomous and remote certifications, the PBAT framework will be used to further understand fuel management, navigation, and communication systems for unmanned operations, explore long-term risk reduction solutions for naval projects, and optimize the Royal Australian Navy’s crew workload.

“Looking ahead, we are excited about the potential opportunities to work with the Navy to further advance the autonomous technology demonstrated during the trial; on projects such as the Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels, recently announced by the Australian Government as part of the Surface Combatant Fleet Review,” Austal Limited CEO Paddy Gregg stated.

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