Joint autonomous systems exercise held in Australia's deepest lake

Tasmania's Lake St Clair hosted participants from academia and defence for AUV field trials and training in a now-annual exercise.

August 22, 2019

Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) experts from defence and academia came together at Australia's deepest lake for the second year running to trial cutting-edge underwater vehicles, build expertise and share best practice.  

The cool expanse of Lake St Clair — ideally suited for AUV deployment without the need for complex offshore operations — played host in July to participants from the Australian Maritime College (AMC), AMC Search, the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and the Royal Australian Navy’s Mine Warfare and Hydrographic Forces.

The group of operators, engineers and researchers undertook three days of mission preparation, engineering trials and AUV operations training. Two AUVs – a REMUS 100, designed for sonar and oceanographic surveys, and Nupiri Muka, an Explorer-model AUV designed for under-ice exploration – mapped portions of the lake.

The joint exercise, called Winterfest, marks the culmination of an ongoing AMC-Defence autonomous systems collaboration that includes AUV Operator training, delivered since 2017 to Navy via AMC Search, the training and consulting division of AMC.   

Chris White, Defence and Autonomous Systems Manager at AMC Search, explained that it benefited all parties to participate in the now-annual exercise.

“This is an amazing opportunity for different AUV operators to work together, learn from each other and progress our individual capabilities.”

“While AMC engineers carry out field trials in Lake St Clair ahead of commercial and research deployments, Defence personnel can join them and build on their training, as well as sharing knowledge and best practice with experts in the field.”

Navy participant Lieutenant James Keane said that the exercise was ideal preparation for Navy ahead of deployment of their next-generation vehicles.

“Exercise Winterfest was a chance to operate AUVs in a unique location which presented complex operational challenges. 

"The ability to engage with AMC experts for discussions covering all aspects of maritime autonomy made it a great development opportunity for Mine Warfare and Hydrographic sailors, especially as we prepare to operate autonomous systems in the next generation of Navy capability.”

In addition to field trials — Nupiri Muka was being tested ahead of deployment on a scientific mission to Antarctica — the exercise was an opportunity for researchers and PhD students working on advancing AUV technologies to observe and validate their numerical models and simulations in the field. 

Img 0878
Img 0736

Find out more about AUVs