MarLab Marine Autonomous Surface Ships Data Project

MarLab Marine Autonomous Surface Ships Data has been created by Falmouth based Solis Marine Engineering, working with delivery partner MariTrace, the UK’s first data trial on behalf of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency to unlock the potential for the future development of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).
MASS stakeholders have been testing a prototype data hub designed to accelerate the safe development and use of autonomous vessels in UK waters.
The MarLab Marine Autonomous Surface Ships project was created and managed by Falmouth based Solis Marine Engineering on behalf of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the experimental test site was based in Portland Harbour, drawing upon more than 20 various data sets over and above AIS which experts say are necessary to operate Marine Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) safely.
Developed as an MVP (Minimal Viable Product), the single distribution platform has recently completed a five month period of testing with a range of experts providing feedback by putting the platform through its paces.
Working alongside Solis Marine, delivery partner MariTrace developed a technology stack to demonstrate how multiple data sources from a single port can be consolidated into a single location, making them available for MASS operators to access the data on demand.

The data was delivered via APIs accessed via a URL with a dashboard providing a visual understanding of the status of each data source and the multiple datasets available through it, allowing us to gather valuable feedback, explore system architecture and technology solutions for full scale development and identify potential design considerations or sticking points for full scale development.

Why Portland Harbour?

This is a question that has been frequently asked given Plymouth’s Smart Sound programme. The MCA in conjunction with Solis Marine chose Portland Harbour because it was big enough for a MASS test area but not so large that datasets for this particular viability study become unwieldly and the scale of the task exceed the project budget.

Portland has many different data sources to manage its port on a day to day basis. These were harmonised into the portal alongside other data which was supplied by the MCA and other bodies such as the Met Office and Hydrographic Office.

The study successfully defined the parameters for a single, common, interactive and scalable data hub to share mission critical navigation data, facilitating the safe testing of autonomous vessels.

By having this knowledge, the MCA is now able to move forward in support of the industry, and the data study will continue to be used to feed into regulatory developments and support in technology implementations.

Unfortunately, the MCA is not in a position to continue to fund the test portal in its current form as the necessary resources and specialisms are not currently there.

However, the consultation has shown how invaluable a resource the data hub is and meetings will be held across Whitehall to explore what might be possible going forward for a data led resource for the UK MASS industry based on the demonstrated need.

In the meantime, Solis Marine Engineering and MariTrace are actively exploring other avenues to see how we might operate a MASS datahub in key locations and territories in partnership with other interested bodies and organisations.

For more information visit MARLab Update – June 2020

To find out more about autonomy and geospatial data in the South West of the UK.