BMT outlines Highly Autonomous Warship technology programme
Warship Technology October 2021
UK naval design and systems engineering group BMT has revealed details of an internal research project intended to scope, map and de-risk the transition to increasingly autonomous and lean-manned warships.
Known as Highly Autonomous Warship Technology (HAWT), the company’s thought leadership initiative set out to identify the major technological philosophies underpinning safe, secure and available lean-crewed warships, while at the same time setting out technology route maps to enable increasingly autonomous future maritime operations. The company has produced a high-level summary, together with a series of more detailed supporting papers, to outline its thinking.
The HAWT project was founded on in-house research and development together with insights from technology ‘horizon scanning’. Rather than setting out a concept design, its objective is to set out the fundamental ‘building blocks’ of autonomous system integration that can either be used to inform new designs or integrated into other ship concepts.
According to BMT, the HAWT project offers a vision of how artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent systems can be integrated into naval ship design in order to process huge amounts of data and provide information at the speed of relevance, allowing a ship and its crew to be better informed to accelerate their decision-making and operational tempo. The intention is that these improved organisational efficiencies arising will in turn reduce vessels through-life costs, minimise personnel risk and deliver a step change in capability.
The project attempted to identify enabling technologies aligned to three supporting pillars: safety, security, and cost-effectiveness. A number of the relevant technologies are already on board some vessels or could easily be introduced to legacy designs or new-builds with minimal disruption. These can deliver benefits through implementation in a conventional evolutionary design process.
However, the study has also determined that there is an inflection point at which the full integration of low-maintenance platform systems, and lean crew-enabled recoverability features, will demand a radically different platform design to exploit the full gamut of autonomous technologies.
BMT also points out that some of the biggest changes and challenges to realise a Highly Autonomous Warship are not technological, but rather organisational and cultural. Existing practices and embedded processes will thus require review and adaptation to reap the full benefits of autonomous technology.
The full article about the HAWT project can be found in the October 2021 issue of Warship Technology.