For the first time in Australia, autonomous marine technology developers have a location to safely test autonomous vessels without needing to apply for a permit.
The AIMS ReefWorks inshore test range, near Townsville in north Queensland, has been granted regulatory sandbox approval for uncrewed vessels from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
It’s the first approval issued under a proposed Australian Maritime Regulatory Sandbox advocated by Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS), AIMS and AMC Search.
The five-year agreement allows for permit-free testing and evaluation of vessels up to 12m in length, traveling up to 20 knots within the test range.
ReefWorks Project Director Melanie Olsen said the status removed a time-consuming hurdle and uncertainty for developers and helps clear the path for development of Australia’s fledgling autonomous marine technology sector.
“It eliminates a significant amount of red tape as well as the expensive possibility of not securing a permit in time for a planned trial. It will also allow ReefWorks to share the lessons we learn with regulators to help reduce risk and drive legislative changes.”
AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science) is working closely with TAS (Trusted Autonomous Systems) to remove the barriers slowing development of Australia’s autonomous marine technology industry.
In September, ReefWorks hosted a TAS event which put autonomous vessels through their paces to test a newly published Australian Code of Practice for the Design, Construction, Survey and Operation of Autonomous and Remotely Operated Vessels, aimed at bridging the gap between existing maritime safety standards and the advent of crewless vessels in Australia.
AIMS is developing a suite of autonomous marine monitoring technology, ReefScan, to provide more comprehensive knowledge, faster, to inform sustainable management of Australia’s changing tropical marine environment.
ReefWorks opened its doors to industry, Defence, and academic innovators in 2022, with support from the Queensland Government, to provide one of the world’s first tropical water marine technology test ranges.