Autonomous surface vessel on water with Mt Cleveland behind

Next gen smart boat trialled at AIMS test range

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05 April 2022

James Cook University (JCU) engineering students recently tested an autonomous surface vessel they are developing using AIMS' ReefWorks tropical marine technology test range at Cape Ferguson, near Townsville.

In preparation to compete in the 2022 Maritime RobotX Challenge, the team’s electric-powered Wave Adaptive Modular-Vessel (WAM-V) was put through its paces at ReefWorks.

Project lead Ethan Waters said the vessel would face some difficult tasks in the challenge, such as travelling through specific gates based on the location of an underwater beacon, following a path indicated by buoys of a different colour, and scanning a light to determine the red-green-blue sequence it produces.

“A boat like this could have several applications, such as reconnaissance, search and rescue or even autonomously patrol parts of the reef to observe different marine life,” Mr Waters said.

AIMS ReefWorks facilitated JCU’s WAM-V systems integration testing, safety procedure verification and on-water checks at a test range with the assistance of the broader AIMS operations and engineering teams.

“We tested how the boat performed receiving commands and then executing them via a remote control. It was important to do that and address any issues we had before it goes completely autonomous,” Mr Waters said.

The competition, run in collaboration with the United States Office of Naval Research and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group, will see JCU go up against a host of international and Australian teams at the Sydney International Regatta Centre from November 11 – 17.

AIMS is a sponsor of JCU’s WAM-V. ReefWorks, supported by the Queensland Government, is a national capability to safely test marine technologies, uncrewed systems and new sensors in a tropical marine environment. It has recently opened to external users including industry, government and academic innovators.

Feature image courtesy of James Cook University/Joshua Smallwood