Austal Australia has received a decommissioned Royal Australian Navy Armidale-class patrol boat for autonomous and remote-controlled capability testing.

The former HMAS Maitland (now “Sentinel”) has been delivered to the Austal shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia, to support the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT) project.

PBAT includes the collaboration of the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre and the Royal Australian Navy Warfare Innovation Branch. It is co-funded from the Commonwealth of Australia.

PBAT aims to “establish robotic, automated and autonomous elements on a patrol boat, providing a proof-of-concept demonstrator, for optionally crewed or autonomous operations for the Royal Australian Navy into the future.”

Alongside the development, PBAT will explore legal, regulatory, and operational requirements associated with autonomous systems.

Sentinel’s nameplate. Photo: Austal Australia

Throughout the project, Austal is expected to combine its expertise in building the Armidale-class patrol boat along with the experience of subcontractor L3Harris in autonomous vessel technology development.

Upon its arrival, the Sentinel will enter the PBAT’s modification phase, which includes installing control systems, monitoring, and related technologies for autonomous and remote operations.

‘Australia’s Autonomous Naval Journey’

Completing the Sentinel PBAT will allow the vessel to be registered as a domestic, commercial vessel under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority by July 2023.

The vessel is expected to begin sea trials in October 2023.

“Austal are pleased to be at the heart of Australia’s autonomous naval journey, working with our Industry partners, Navy and the Commonwealth, to complete the modification and trials, and share this data to improve the wider knowledge base,” Austal Limited CEO Paddy Greg said.

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“Our expert staff are excited to be working to learn more about the challenges and opportunities in this autonomous and robotic space.”

“Austal always strive to improve our designs and build ships that outsmart Australia’s adversaries, delivering capability into the hands of the Australian Defence Force to improve their ability to fight and win at sea.”