In a defence context, naval forces are engaged permanently, including in various types of conflicts, asymmetric or symmetric. They must control their environment in order to scan, detect and analyse as soon as possible the intentions of other forces and potential threats, in order to retain capacity of initiative, freedom of movement and to achieve the desired endeffect. In this respect, maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR), complemented with neutralisation capacities, is a key capability from a strategic or tactical perspective. The ISTAR chain is a critical enabler to the common Recognized Maritime Picture (RMP), for detection, identification, tracking and target acquisition, as well as for strengthening interoperability.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and other unmanned systems (UXS, in which "X" can stand for "Aerial", "Surface" or "Underwater") operated alongside other unmanned and manned systems can thereby provide significant added value to enhance such situational awareness. Yet efforts are needed for extending, amongst other parameters, the persistence, range and coverage in particular of UAS.
The integration of data from multiple sources operating in a complementary way, and the quality and capability to exchange data in real (or near real) time is needed to improve the interoperability between manned and unmanned systems within existing, multilateral EU defence systems and infrastructures, and with naval platforms and mission systems.
Enhanced situational awareness in naval operations critically depends on the quality of (a) the sensor suite and (b) the exploitation/sharing of gathered data. Major potential for substantial improvements and step-up exist in these two domains:
This topic calls for proposals that convincingly remove technological obstacles, and combine innovation and integration, in order to demonstrate that situational awareness in a naval environment can be significantly improved.
In this context, technology demonstrations in two types of operational situations should are prioritised:
These operations cover the first phases of all naval operations conduct from naval ships or vessels. Although these operations might take on maritime security dimensions, they also need to cover genuine defence specific requirements. Specific maritime ISTAR assets are linked to the environment in which systems or equipment are operated such as:
The objective of the technological demonstrator is to mature and bring technologies together, for enhancing situational awareness through unmanned systems working alongside manned systems in various complex and extreme environmental circumstances. On the one hand, the focus be on the integration of RPAS or other UXS into naval systems (ship interface & combat management system). On the other hand, considering various types of unmanned systems – e.g. aerial, surface and/or submersible platforms – the focus shall be on the transfer of relevant military data and fusing of this data with complementary data from space platforms or manned systems.
These two work-strands shall be conducted in a consistent manner, with the high level objective to improve situational awareness and provide a comprehensive picture of an operational situation enabling management of own assets, monitoring movement, and detection of threats in a contested environment that requires protective measures for cyber defence, electronic warfare, GPS-denial and platform/payload survivability.
More specifically, proposals should balance R&T efforts in the following two areas:
a) Integration in naval systems of close-to-market new or improved existing platformsdemonstrator with improved sensors capacity, persistence and autonomy
Taking into account the necessity of increasing ISTAR in high sea naval operations, the use of RPAS or other UXS as platforms with appropriate payloads that would allow the use of improved sensors is expected to constitute a major asset in future capabilities.
Substantial technological progress is needed to develop RPAS or other UXS solutions which would be operated from navy ships and meet a number of defence specific requirements: payload capacity (several types of sensors, at least 2 major sensors on-board, persistence, endurance and range, autonomy and optimisation of operators work-load, EMC/EMI compatibility, operations (including launch and recovery) at sea from navy ships under extreme conditions, survivability, etc.
To achieve the desirable (and affordable) compromise between needs and solutions, and in terms of payload vs. platform, efforts are needed to remove technological obstacles concerning platform technologies, technologies related to the integration into military ship environment, payload and sensors architecture-related technologies, control systems and handling quality, autonomous operation, as well as security aspects.
The project should not aim at developing a new platform but focus on developing key technologies while using existing platforms, as a basis for developing this work strand of the project as well as for the demonstration testing.
Proposals would address aspects such as:
Proposals should underline the impact of new or improved existing platforms and of their technological content on, e.g., endurance, range, autonomy, payload capacity and trade-off between size/weight and performances, enhanced sensors performance, resilience and redundancy of Command and Control links and data links.
b) Demonstration of integration of data from multiple sources in a single predefined tactical picture
The demonstration should aim at evaluating the capability of a Maritime Operation Center (MOC) to acquire, exploit, correlate, analyse and disseminate securely sensor data and integrate it into a RMP in Near Real Time (NRT), making use of the current state of the art satellite imagery, Automatic Identification System (space and coastal), naval vessel, manned and unmanned systems.
The integration of data from those multiple sources should improve ISTAR in a single predefined tactical picture allowing faster, independent and more accurate use of combat systems of the naval military systems.
Concerning the data exchange, the main challenge should be placed on the capability to exchange data and ability to switch quickly between classified and unclassified channels with cyber issues. Data can be gathered by sensors on-board the UXS but also from a wider scope of sensor types and assets. Also progressing on the near real-time transmission (a datalink allowing full motion video in particular) remains an important challenge.
In addition, the demonstration may include the use of homogeneous or heterogeneous groups, i.e., mixing UAV with manned fixed and/or rotary wings, USV and/or UUV), equipped with different types of sensors.
Proposals should address aspects such as:
Proposals should underline (i) the improved interaction/coordination between (semi-) autonomous platforms and man-machine interaction and interface issues, (ii) improved quality of situational awareness compared to that provided by traditional assets (higher quality at lower risk and cost), (iii) impact in reduction of human involvement in operation. Proposals should also demonstrate that naval combat management systems will maximise the exploitation of the potential of unmanned systems through the development of a shared situational awareness. NATO-EU interoperability will be important in that regard as well as interoperability with civil systems if appropriate.
Proposals should therefore also include aspects such as:
The activities of the project should focus mainly on maturing and integrating validated technologies. Part of the project can be carried out by using computer-based modelling and simulation tools, to allow de-risking of the demonstration. Moreover, the project shall provide a full-scale technological demonstration at least in a relevant environment of mixed manned/unmanned assets. If deemed appropriate, the proposal could include a demonstration in an operational environment, e.g., in conjunction with armed forces. A list of EU Member States armed forces that expressed their willingness to facilitate (part of) the demonstration activities can be found for information in the 'Additional documents'. There is no obligation for applicants neither to use nor to restrict themselves to the organisations contained in this list.
The proposal should include a high level description of the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the envisaged functionalities and the methodologies on how to measure them. A report with a detailed description of these KPIs and methodologies in view of the demonstrations should be delivered within 6 months after the start of the project.
The implementation of this topic is intended to start at TRL 4 and target TRL not lower than 6 and not higher than 7.
The Commission considers that proposal requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR
32 and 36 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately.
Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Given the constraints on the yearly budget of the Preparatory Action, full proposals should include upon a single submission the description of (i) a core part which would need a EU contribution between EUR 14 and 16 million from the 2017 budget, and (ii) up to 4 additional research modules with a EU contribution of up to EUR 5 million each that would extend the core project to cover the topic more substantially. These research modules can receive funding from the 2018 budget subject to the adoption of the 2018 financing decision on the preparatory action and subject to the approval of the budget by the EU budgetary authorities. The proposals, including the total indicative budget of the core part and all additional modules will be evaluated in their entirety during a single-stage evaluation procedure.
No more than one action will be funded.
Proposals should include a first demonstration of preliminary yet meaningful results during late 2019 (and in any event not before mid-2019) with the second and final demonstration during mid-2020. It is anticipated that both demonstrations should be alongside existing military platforms. The participation of SMEs in the proposal, if relevant, is strongly encouraged and this will be positively evaluated under the “Implementation” criterion.