Capability and Innovation Event to Showcase Maritime Autonomy Progress
(Source: Thales; issued Feb 27, 2019)
Naval Attaches representing 33 nations were able to get a first-hand understanding of the focus on Maritime Autonomy that Thales is developing at Turnchapel Wharf in Plymouth.

Thales showcased its work to an international audience at a Capability and Innovation event in March, clearly demonstrating the significant investment that has been made in both innovative technologies and the local maritime ecosystem.

The Naval attaches visited Turnchapel Wharf, Thales’s waterfront Maritime Autonomy trials centre in Plymouth on Thursday afternoon, 28 February 2019. The event aimed at igniting interest among navies globally in establishing their own autonomous capabilities.

The representatives were taken by chartered boat into Plymouth Sound to gain an insight into the level of activity currently being undertaken at Turnchapel by both Thales and its supply chain, in support of the joint UK-French MMCM programme. The group had the opportunity to see an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) being put through its paces during some of the ongoing trials activity being conducted at the facility.

Collaborative ecosystem

During the three-hour visit, naval attaches also met representatives from Plymouth City Council, more than 15 small- to medium-sized companies and academic institutions, all working with Thales as part of the South West Maritime Ecosystem.

Thales has a well-established track record of successfully identifying and integrating SME expertise, agility and diversity in its programmes.

Thales and MMCM

Since Minister for Defence Procurement Stuart Andrew officially opened Turnchapel Wharf in October 2018, Thales has been conducting trials as part of Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM). Designed to keep sailors out of harm’s way during mine hunting operations, MMCM is a joint UK-French programme to develop an autonomous mine hunting capability.

Maritime autonomy is set to revolutionise naval operations, and Thales will be at its cutting edge, through its ten-year investment in this capability and its involvement in MMCM. The UK and French navies are committed to MMCM and have aspirations for early exploitation of autonomy in future mine countermeasures and hydrographic capabilities.

MMCM and Turnchapel Wharf will enable the European defence ecosystem to remain at the forefront of Maritime Autonomy.

The future

Thales will make Turnchapel Wharf, with its waterfront facilities, proximity to maritime expertise and access to varied sea trials areas, the UK’s maritime autonomy centre of excellence, enabling rapid exploration and exploitation of emergent and disruptive technologies.

The company has already invested £1 million in the first phase of the site’s development and stage two, a shoreside control centre, is being planned. All of this is also good news for Plymouth, with up to 100 new jobs predicted to be generated by 2025.

The future of maritime warfare is currently being tested and certified at Turnchapel Wharf, and the international naval delegates will have left the Capability and Innovation Event with the future firmly imprinted on their minds.

“We’re working closely with enterprise partnerships locally. High-value manufacturing will grow the local economy and contribute to Plymouth’s aspiration to become the blue-tech maritime city of the UK,” said Matt Hunt, Maritime Autonomy Lead, Turnchapel Wharf.

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