The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy is putting a new and significant priority on keeping the world’s waterways safe. When it came time to ensure its sailors were safe, they turned to L3Harris.
The Fall River, Mass., company was asked to upgrade three Iver3 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles with the capability to integrate high-accuracy navigation systems and advanced communications. The Royal Navy would use these capabilities for unmanned mine hunting and other operations.
“The proven, robust interface allows additional functionality delivered from smart partners like SeeByte for the command and control of a network of unmanned systems,” said Matt Gusto, business development lead for unmanned underwater vehicles at L3Harris. “The features of the new generation enable very large areas to be imaged in less time with greater accuracy, from deep ocean into the surf zone.”
The upgraded Iver3s are part of a holistic upgrading of Royal Navy mine hunting capabilities, dubbed Project Wilton. Operating out of HM Naval Base Clyde in Scotland, Project Wilton includes three vessels tasked with mine hunting as well as seabed surveys and other operations.
Project Wilton provides portable route survey capability using a suite of equipment, including the AUVs, autonomous surface craft, remotely operated vehicles and a portable operations center. The First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1) conducts route surveys to ensure safe operations in United Kingdom and throughout the world. The goal is to ensure freedom of navigation for both military and commercial shipping vessels.
Originally due to begin operating in the third quarter of last year, COVID-19 limited the number of exercises that could be completed and delayed results. Still, Gusto believes “promising future capabilities are expected to be demonstrated through the end of 2021 and into 2022.”
Building Upon Expertise
The Ivevr3-580 AUVs are a natural extension of the capabilities of the Iver2, part of the company’s goal to “continuously improve performance and ease of operation while maintaining the differentiators that enabled the success of those systems,” Gusto said. “L3Harris is now delivering the Iver4 series of AUV that increase performance and enable multi-mission payloads that be changed in harsh, open environments.”
Iver3 boasts an open system, where users can make software extensions to the vehicle without a custom design. Running at a length of 74 to 85 inches and weighing 59 to 85 pounds, the Iver3 has a speed range of one to four knots.
L3Harris, a global aerospace and defense technology innovator, has already used what has been learned from the Iver3 to release the next generation AUV: the Iver4-900 and Iver4-580 series. “The Iver4 significantly increases endurance while maintaining a low logistics footprint for launch and recovery from Unmanned Surface Vessels like the MADFOX from our sister division ASV UK,” Gusto said.
Iver3-580 AUVs will continue to support future capabilities through integration of new payloads, Gusto said. “This feature set leads the market in the ability to address new mission areas with unmanned systems.”
Some of these capabilities are already available to commercial customers, Gusto said. “Navigation accuracy supports extremely precise geo-location of features on the seafloor. This capability has commercial uses like offshore wind and many other projects that rely on seafloor data sets.”
L3Harris Technologies to Upgrade Iver3 Vehicles in support of the Royal Navy’s Project Wilton