UKHO provides S-100 navigation data for autonomous ship Mayflower during sea trials ahead of departure for US coast
The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has announced that it is the provider of S-100 navigational data for the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) project. This is the first time S-100 data has been tested aboard an unmanned or autonomous marine vessel. The ship is currently in Plymouth Sound in the UK, where it is undergoing a sea trial which began on March 28, 2022 and is testing the ship’s ability to read, integrate and use S-100 data.
The UKHO is funding the integration and testing of S-100 Universal Hydrographic Model data into the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) software stack for the MAS project. The S-100 data provided by the UKHO is designed to be machine readable and of a higher resolution than the S-57 electronic chart data, which MAS previously relied on to inform the mission manager on board – and will be the future standard supporting digital navigation products globally.
During the ongoing trial, the MAS demonstrates its ability to read and interact with S-100 data provided by the UKHO and safely maneuver autonomously, recreating a typical passage from sea to base Naval Devonport – a “what-if scenario” which requires an unusual and potentially dangerous passage, deployment to and from Mayflower Base at Turnchapel Wharf, across Plymouth Sound and to and from the sea. Many iterations of these test scenarios are running in different sea states, tidal flows and wind and weather conditions, as well as with local marine traffic. During these, the MAS simulates the behaviors of a larger autonomous vessel, operating and behaving like a Royal Navy frigate in terms of size, maneuverability, draft and other ship characteristics. ship.
Safety is paramount to the project, with a human operator always in the know from the remote operations center and a local safety boat close to the MAS at all times.
Commenting on the announcement, Mark Casey, Head of Research, Design and Innovation at the UK Hydrographic Office, said:
It’s fantastic to be able to play an important role in the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project as the provider of the S-100 data that will inform the ship’s navigation. Our contribution to the sea trial, which will see the use of the S-100 aboard an unmanned vessel for the first time in history, is an important milestone for us at UKHO. This not only strengthens our position as an internationally recognized hydrographic service, but also as a leading institution in the advancement of autonomous navigation and the development of the S-100.
We are grateful to our partners and all parties involved in this exceptional project, which will highlight the importance of the S-100 as an enabler of autonomous navigation in a way the world has never seen before. The MAS project is of major importance for the potential of autonomous navigation and will have crucial implications for the whole industry.
This project will be highly relevant to the S-100 use case as it will provide insight into the usefulness of the S-100 data and format, identify data gaps and how to deploy and integration, and will provide real-world operational testing. which will inform future deployments of S-100 data from the UKHO to other manned and unmanned vessel operators around the world. The MAS project will also contribute to advancing the state of the art in maritime autonomy and will be crucial for the advancement of autonomous navigation.