Australia to autonomously collect data in Southern Ocean – Hardware

Australia is set to trial an uncrewed surface vessel (USV) in the Southern Ocean to collect data such as on local conditions “in real-time or near real-time”.

The government, through The Australian Antarctic Division, has gone to tender for a USV that can “complete autonomous ocean science missions lasting from three to six months” and cover “distances exceeding 3000 nautical miles.”

It is hoping to conduct an initial trial “between October 2023 and March 2024”.

“This trial will focus on USV performance in ice-free waters, with one goal being to assess manoeuvrability and control features of the USV to determine the feasibility of a follow up trials incorporating sea-ice interaction,” tender documents state.

“Pending the successful outcome of the 2023-24 trial, a second trial will occur between July 2024 and June 2025 with complimentary mission objectives.”

Only the first trial will be covered by an initial supplier agreement; “the extension option will be exercised only if the second trial period is assessed as worthwhile,” the government said.

The government stated an intention to establish “a suite of autonomous monitoring and research capabilities” as part of its 2022 update to the Australian Antarctic Strategy.

Data collected autonomously is envisioned to be added to the Australian Antarctic Data Centre (AADC), an internet-based open data resource.

Australia has previously flagged the use of drones to collect data that could be added to a digital twin of Antarctica.

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