Competition: intelligent ship – the next generation

1. Introduction

This competition is seeking proposals for novel and innovative projects that enable and facilitate the wider use of intelligent systems within future warships, with the potential for wider utilisation across defence.

The aim is to start to de-risk and evaluate technologies and approaches that could enable alternative, revolutionary future fleet concepts that can maintain or enhance UK military advantage. This aim is based on a future vision where elements of automation, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are closely integrated and teamed with human decision makers. It is expected that this will ensure timely, more informed and trusted decision making and planning, within complex, cluttered, contested and congested operating and data environments (henceforth referred to as the future operating environment).

£1M is available to fund multiple innovative proposals that form phase 1, with an additional £3M potentially available to fund follow-on phases.

Phase 1 closes on 23 July 2019 at midday BST.

2. Competition Scope

2.1 Background

Intelligent techniques and automation will have a significant impact across all aspects of Defence in the future and it is essential that Defence embraces the potential of intelligent systems, approaches and technology. This has the potential not only to change how data and information is used, presented and interacted with, but also in how ships are designed, work together, are operated and manned. Hence there is potential with these new technologies and approaches to envisage future fleet options made up of fundamentally different platform types, sizes and roles than of those seen in today’s Royal Navy, as well as influencing refit and continual improvement of the existing fleet.

Future threats are becoming more challenging both in terms of detectability, capability, speed and numbers, especially in a future operating environment that will certainly be congested, may be degraded or even denied. The ever growing data and information flows, while potentially providing more knowledge about a situation, also create a problem with potential information overload, which can lead to confusion, uncertainty and less effective or delayed decision making. This increasing data input is already challenging crew communications and their interactions with information systems; a trend which will become even more prevalent in the coming years.

Current system developments are typically evolutionary and reflect and perpetuate current military manning, command structures, policy, roles and skills. Platforms also have many stove-piped data sources which mean that the command team and operators are presented with information from numerous sources which then have to be assimilated, prioritised and understood, before being communicated across different operating areas. There is, therefore, a significant reliance on human-to-human communications and human decision making, resulting in the current use of large teams of highly skilled and trained crew.

Decision times will need to reduce to meet future threat capabilities, a challenge both helped but also complicated by growing volumes of data and available sources of data. There is therefore a need to more effectively and more efficiently use human-based analytical and decision making skills in conjunction with greater machine intelligence and automation, to both increase military advantage while not over-stretching human commanders.

Finally this new reality must be considered against a continuing backdrop of financial and manpower constraints under which the Royal Navy must operate, hence the impact of new capabilities in this area must be considered against procurement, manpower, skills, training requirements and costs.

2.2 Scope

Proposals must demonstrate how they would improve automation, autonomous functions, AI enabled decision aides or alternative human-machine interfaces, and how they could improve speed and/or quality of decision making and mission planning in a future operating environment. Proposals could also aim to demonstrate innovative system and platform design options that could enable the exploitation of intelligent systems in alternative platform concepts.

The projects should include research or critical investigation aimed at the acquisition of new knowledge and skills for developing novel concepts to address the developing information explosion and evolving threats.

Phase 1 [the current Phase of the competition]

Proposals are welcomed for novel and innovative technologies and approaches to revolutionise decision making, mission planning, automation or the design of military platforms in a setting of ever growing data and information flow and evolving threats in a future operating environment. Proposals should consider the human-machine teaming aspects and show evidence of consideration for the human operators throughout the design.

Future competition phases

Potential further phases are expected to include the development of an evaluation environment to enable demonstration of quantification of the selected intelligent functions. This phase of the work will need to be closely linked to other projects.

It is expected that all the work under the this theme of Intelligent Ship will be brought together in phase 2 along with other research and Ministry of Defence (MOD) programmes that will add value to, and show a broader potential exploitation of, the overarching Intelligent Ship vision. This will require government, industry and academia to work together to evaluate and demonstrate an alternative future intelligence-based information-led system of systems. Phase 3 is currently expected to be an evaluation of the intelligent functions, including demonstration and quantification.

3. Competition Challenges

This competition will fund projects to support Intelligent Ship technologies across all sectors of the automation, AI and human-machine teaming industry.

The key challenges are as follows:

3.1 Challenge 1 – Mission planning and decision aides

This challenge is to provide high level decision aides and automation to assist and work alongside the command in decision making in a complex, multi-source data rich environment. Examples of the types of decisions that the command may have to make are:

  • decide potential Courses of Action (CoA) through identification and assessment of threats within a cluttered and dynamic environment – e.g. by:
    • establishing Patterns of Life (PoL); this refers to intelligence generated by observing regular behaviours of people/objects/environmental or natural phenomena, in particular from limited data sets or sparse information
    • fusing and prioritising all on-board sensor data to create a single picture
    • integrating external governmental and open data sources – i.e. to understand political context
  • react to and mitigate the impact of environmental, logistics and platform material state limitations and configuration options
  • decide on platform operation:
    • current course and speed selection
    • allocation of off-board assets to current tasking
    • re-allocation of tasking to other platforms – e.g. separating a ‘sensor’ and ‘shooter’
  • decide on Rules of Engagement (ROE) – i.e. impacts of current ROE limits or recommendations to change ROE based on new situation(s)
  • configure the platform’s systems.

3.2 Challenge 2 – Information fusion

This challenge is to use/fuse the information available from all sources to provide the right information at the right time to the decision

3.3 Challenge 3 – Sensor and Information management

This challenge is to ensure the data and information is available when required for decision making. This would mean managing the information sources to fill in the gaps in the information i.e. they may need to task sensors to gather particular types of information, maybe using organic assets, or request intelligence information from other platforms, command or external sources.

3.4 Challenge 4 – Novel human-machine interfaces

This challenge is about investigating new and novel techniques for how a human may interact with a machine within the challenging maritime environment.

3.5 Challenge 5 – Human-machine teaming applied to challenges 1-4

This challenge is key to ensuring that the human and machine can work together. How do we get the right balance between what tasks the machine undertakes and what the human does? How do we keep the human engaged in the processing and fully cognisant of what is going on? How do we build trust?

3.6 Challenge 6 – Integration

This challenge is to provide the systems design, functionality, and control intelligence to enable more automated and even autonomous functionality with limited human intervention.

3.7 Clarification of what we want

Intelligent Ship is addressing how to use automation and AI techniques to make better use of available information, do things in a different way, and provide automated techniques for processing, planning aids and support to decision making.

Human-machine and machine-machine teaming and interfaces will be a crucial part of the project to ensure that humans and machines work together to build on the strengths that each brings to the mission. The AI should provide consistent output and be able to explain the conclusions and decisions reached in a manner the human can understand in order to develop and ensure decision confidence.

We want novel ideas to benefit users working in UK Defence and Security. Your proposal should include evidence of:

  • theoretical development, methodological advancement or proof of concept research which can demonstrate potential for translation to practical demonstration in later phases
  • innovation or a creative approach
  • clear demonstration of how the proposed work applies to any defence and security context with explicit relevance to improving actionable understanding and insight into human behaviour
  • develop an understanding in how:
    • innovative techniques such as intelligent processing, automation and artificial intelligence can be applied
    • complex networks of humans and machines can effectively team
    • to effectively present the correct information and decision aides at the right time, to a measurable quality and in an auditable way
    • to create more open, flexible approaches, allowing more rapid change, upgrade and adoption of new technology and approaches
    • to successfully integrate autonomy and intelligent automation, at a system level, to provide the desired outcome in an increasingly complex system of intelligent systems
    • to enable integration and application of intelligence systems through alternative, and/or novel platform and platform system design.

These aims should be achieved while remaining aware of any emerging risks that would prevent exploitation of these new technologies and approaches due to an inability to provide adequate security, assurance and reversionary modes; however, due to the revolutionary aims of this work, proposals should not be initially constrained by these issues.

3.8 Clarification of what we don’t want

For this competition we are not interested in proposals that:

  • constitute consultancy, paper-based studies or literature reviews which just summarise the existing literature without any view of future innovation (which therefore cannot be extended into phase 2)
  • do not offer significant benefit to defence and security capability.
  • are an identical resubmission of a previous bid to DASA or MOD without modification
  • offer demonstrations of off-the-shelf products requiring no experimental development (unless applied in a novel way to the challenge)
  • offer no real long-term prospect of integration into defence and security capabilities
  • offer no real prospect of out-competing existing technological solutions

There are many other programmes and projects within the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) addressing automation and applied intelligence for military applications. There is a desire to integrate some of these project activities into phase 2 and 3 of this project to maximise net benefit. Therefore, to avoid duplication, this call is not open to proposals that are focused only on the following areas:

  • operational level planning and decision aides i.e. longer term pre-mission planning off-board from a platform
  • low-level sensor fusion – this refers to the lower level fusion (i.e. plots and tracks) as opposed to information fusion which is of interest to the Intelligent Ship programme
  • shared, developmental, and demonstration infrastructures – a shared environment infrastructure will be needed for the later evaluation/demonstration phases of this work. This requirement will be managed within current Dstl programmes.
  • security – there is a significant amount of work that has been done in this area (including on-going work) within Dstl and MOD. For the purposes of this work it will be assumed that this problem will be addressed elsewhere.
  • assurance – this is not a significant focus of the current work, however the longer-term importance of assurance (including, but not limited to, safety certification) should not be underestimated. To that end, proposals may include appropriately-scaled efforts to identify any significant assurance challenges that may be posed by the proposed approach(es). Where appropriate, the proposed work may also include the development of indicative ways of addressing those challenges
  • reversionary modes –this is not a significant focus of the work, but in a hostile future operating environment it is likely that connectivity will be lost or cyber warfare may affect how systems are working. Therefore proposals may include appropriately-scaled efforts to identify any potential issues surrounding reversionary modes and indicative ways of addressing those challenges.

4. Exploitation

Intelligent ship - exploitation plan

The Intelligent Ship programme is a future looking concept to address how things may be done differently in the 2040+ timescale. However it would be beneficial if any intelligent or automated developments that were suitable could be offered to existing platforms, be they Navy, Army, Air Force or Joint Forces. It is expected that requirements will be a key output from this programme. For example, in order for automated techniques to work there may be a particular quality of data that is needed to ensure the quality of the output i.e. track quality for sensors.

It is important that over the lifetime of DASA competitions, ideas are matured and accelerated towards appropriate end-users to enhance current or future capability. How long this takes will be dependent on the nature and starting point of the innovation. Early identification and appropriate engagement with end-users during the competition and subsequent phases are essential.

All proposals to DASA should articulate the expected development in Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the potential solution over the lifetime of the contract and how this relates to improved operational capability against the current known (or presumed) baseline. Your deliverables should be designed to evidence these aspects with the aim of making it as easy as possible for possible collaborators to identify the innovative elements of your proposal in order to consider routes for exploitation. DASA Innovation Partners are available to support you with defence and security context.

While this phase is focussed on TRL >2, subsequent phases will focus on TRL >3 in order to move concepts closer to exploitation. Phase 1 should be used to generate evidence to support potential bids for phase 2. You may wish to include some of the following information, where known, to help the assessors understand your exploitation plans:

  • the intended defence or security users of your final product and whether you have previously engaged with them, their procurement arm or their research and development arm
  • awareness of, and alignment to, any existing end-user procurement programmes
  • the anticipated benefits (for example, in cost, time, improved capability) that your solution will provide to the user
  • whether it is likely to be a standalone product or integrated with other technologies or platforms
  • expected additional work required beyond the end of the contract to develop an operationally deployable commercial product (for example, ‘scaling up’ for manufacture, cyber security, integration with existing technologies, environmental operating conditions)
  • additional future applications and wider markets for exploitation
  • wider collaborations and networks you have already developed or any additional relationships you see as a requirement to support exploitation
  • how your product could be tested in a representative environment in later phases
  • any specific legal, ethical, commercial or regulatory considerations for exploitation

5. How to apply

Proposals for funding to meet these challenges must be submitted by 23 July 2019 at midday via the DASA submission service for which you will be required to register.

The funding of £1M is expected to fund approximately 10 proposals. Proposals must be for less than £100k each. Any proposals received that are in excess of £100K cost to DASA will be automatically deemed non-compliant. If successful, contracts will be awarded for a duration of 6 months.

Additional funding for further phases to increase TRL further may be available. Any further phases will be open to applications from all suppliers and not just those that submitted phase 1 successful bids. Further guidance on submitting a proposal is available on the DASA website.

5.1 What your proposal must include

The proposal should focus on the phase 1 requirements but must also include a brief outline of the next stages of work required for exploitation.

When submitting a proposal, you must complete all sections of the online form, including an appropriate level of technical information to allow assessment of the bid and a completed finances section.

A project plan with clear milestones and deliverables must also be provided. Deliverables must be well defined and designed to provide evidence of progress against the project plan and the end-point for this phase and must include a final report. You should plan for attendance at a kick off meeting, a demonstration event at the end of phase 1, a collaboration event in advance of phase 2 and regular reviews with the appointed Technical Partner which will be in the UK.

A resourcing plan must also be provided that identifies, where possible, the nationalities of those proposed Research Workers that you intend working on this phase. In the event of proposals being recommended for funding, DASA reserves the right to undertake due diligence checks including the clearance of proposed Research Workers. Please note that this process will take as long as necessary and could take up to 6 weeks in some cases for non-UK nationals.

You must identify any ethical / legal / regulatory factors within your proposal and how the associated risks will be managed, including break points in the project if approvals are not received. MODREC approvals can take up to 3 months and therefore you should plan your work programme accordingly. Further details are available in the DASA guidance. If you are unsure if your proposal will need to apply for MODREC approval, then please contact DASA for further guidance.

In addition, requirements for access to Government Furnished Assets (GFA) should be included in your proposal. DASA cannot guarantee that GFA will be available.

Failure to provide any of the above listed will automatically render your proposal non-compliant.

As noted in Ministry of Defence Guidelines for Industry No. 10, rights for procurement specifications and user requirement documents are retained by the Authority in accordance with DEFCON 703. Required rights, in accordance with these guidelines, are noted below.

Deliverable/Event: Action of supplier: Subject to:
Monthly progress meetings Participated in, and attended by, the supplier N/A
Report on technique or technology developed Delivered by the supplier DEFCON705
Interface definition for technique or technology Delivered by the supplier DEFCON703
User guide Delivered by the supplier DEFCON705
Demonstration of the technique at the demonstration event Delivery by the supplier and attended by the supplier DEFCON705
Kick off meetings Participated in, and attended by, the supplier N/A
Initial collaboration event Participated in by the supplier N/A
Second collaboration event Participated in, and attended by, the supplier N/A
Demonstration event Participated in, and attended by, the supplier N/A
Final report Delivered by the supplier DEFCON705

5.2 Public facing information

When submitting your proposal, you will be required to include a proposal title and a short abstract. If your proposal is funded, the title and abstract you provide will be used by DASA, and other government departments as appropriate, to describe the project and its intended outcomes and benefits. It will be used for inclusion at DASA events in relation to this competition and included in documentation such as brochures for the event. This proposal title will also be published in the DASA transparency data on GOV.UK, along with your company name, organisation type e.g. small and medium sized enterprise (SME) and the amount of funding received.

5.3 How your proposal will be assessed

All proposals will be checked for compliance with the competition document and may be rejected before full assessment if they do not comply. Only those proposals who demonstrate their compliance against the competition scope and DASA criteria will be taken forward to full assessment. Failure to achieve full compliance against the following will render your proposal non-compliant and will not be considered any further:

Mandatory Criteria Within scope (Pass) / Out of scope (Fail)
The proposal outlines how it meets the scope of the competition Pass / Fail
The bidder accepts, in unqualified terms, the proposed DASA Terms and Conditions of Contract. For the purpose of this programme, this includes acceptance of DEFCON 703 in respect of the Deliverable “Interface definition for technique or technology” Pass / Fail
The proposal fully explains in all three sections of the DASA submission service how it meets the DASA assessment criteria Pass / Fail
The proposal clearly details a financial plan, a project plan and a resourcing plan to complete the work proposed in phase 1 Pass / Fail
The proposal identifies the need (or not) for MODREC approval Pass / Fail
The proposal identifies any Government Furnished Assets, where required, for phase 1 Pass / Fail
The value of the proposal is, at a maximum, £100k Pass / Fail
The proposal details how the product would be matured in an evaluation environment Pass / Fail
The proposal covers, as a minimum requirement, all of the deliverables listed in this document Pass / Fail

Proposals will then be assessed against the standard DASA assessment criteria by subject matter experts from the MOD (including Dstl), other government departments and front-line military commands. We are interested in how revolutionary the proposed ideas are and how they challenge the status quo and the current way of doing things. This project is seeking to discard pre-conceptions and old ways of operating and start with a clean sheet in order to embrace new technology and automation working alongside human operators as equal partners to deliver capability. You will not have the opportunity to comment on assessors comments.

DASA reserves the right to disclose on a confidential basis any information it receives from bidders during the procurement process (including information identified by the bidder as Commercially Sensitive Information in accordance with the provisions of this competition) to any third party engaged by DASA for the specific purpose of evaluating or assisting DASA in the evaluation of the bidder’s proposal. In providing such information the bidder consents to such disclosure. Appropriate confidentiality agreements will be put in place.

Further guidance on how your proposal is assessed is available on the DASA website.

After assessment, proposals will be discussed internally at a Decision Conference where, based on the assessments, budget and wider strategic considerations, a decision will be made on the proposals that are recommended for funding.

Proposals that are unsuccessful will receive brief feedback after the Decision Conference.

5.4 Things you should know about DASA contracts

Please read the DASA terms and conditions which contain important information for suppliers. For this competition we will be using the Standard Contract (SC) Innovation Contract – for the avoidance of doubt, this is not the Short Form Contract. The proposed contracting terms will be released soon.

Funded projects will be allocated a Technical Partner as a technical point of contact. In addition, the DASA team will work with you to support delivery and exploitation.

We will use deliverables from DASA contracts in accordance with our rights detailed in the contract terms and conditions.

6. Phase 1 dates

Launch Event 19 June 2019
Dial-in Tbc
Pre bookable 1-1 telecom sessions Tbc
Competition closes 23 July 2019
Contracting Aim to start 1 October 2019 and end 6 months later in April 2020

6.1 Supporting events

19 June 2019 – A formal launch event providing further background and context to the competition. It will include presentations from end-users, the project team, and DASA – enabling you to build your proposal. If you would like to participate, please register on the Intelligent Ship Launch Event Eventbrite page.

To be confirmed – A dial-in session providing further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum.

To be confirmed – A series of 20 minute one-to-one teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions.

7. Help

Competition queries including on process, application, technical, commercial and intellectual property aspects should be sent to accelerator@dstl.gov.uk, quoting the competition title.

While all reasonable efforts will be made to answer queries, DASA reserves the right to impose management controls if volumes of queries restrict fair access of information to all potential suppliers.

Applicants do not have to be familiar with these related work streams to enter a proposal in phase 1; the customer will have further discussions with suppliers in advance of any phase 2 competition . The information provided below is to aid initial consideration of integration and might be required at later stages of work. Related work streams that might be integrated into phase 2 include, but are not limited to:

  • Software framework – Intelligent Ship Artificial Intelligence Network (ISAIN): The Intelligent Ship programme has a task to develop a MOD owned Science and Technology (S&T) architecture to realise the Intelligent Ship concept and the minimum number of elements on which the Intelligent Ship components will be built on for the purposes of evaluation. The components will span all elements of intelligence in a naval military context – sense, think/decide, act and human-machine teaming. In this context the word ‘team’ is defined as a mix of human and machine elements working together co-operatively to achieve a goal. The output from this task will be a software framework which can be used to develop the Intelligent Ship evaluation.
  • Tactical Navigation: This work package under the Intelligent Ship programme is to address tactical navigation, i.e. to develop an intelligent navigation function for a warship. This will build upon existing autonomous navigation functions, but will include the far more complex tactical decision making and manoeuvres that are required from a warship.
  • Display Services: This is a task to develop display services for maritime platforms.
  • Project Nelson: This is developing a platform to make data available to enable applications to be developed to insert technology into existing platforms. This platform may be available to use for evaluation of the Intelligent Ship concept.
  • Shared Infrastructure: There is work on-going to develop a platform and an open systems combat management system, building on an Open Architecture Combat System (OACS) that may be of use to the Intelligent Ship programme. This work will be closely linked to Project Nelson.
  • System Co-ordinating Operational Interaction for Effects Assignment (SYCOIEA):: This is a threat evaluation and effects assignment project. It may be possible to use this as a ‘module’ feeding in to the Intelligent Ship evaluation.
  • STARTLE: a decision aid that uses AI to draw the attention of operators to contacts that exhibit either anomalous behaviours, when compared to other contacts, or which have a threat profile. This work could also be included in the Intelligent Ship evaluation.
  • Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation (MAPLE) –a project developing information architecture to support the efficient exploitation of maritime unmanned vehicles (UxV) by surface warships. The vision is that a common control station, integrated within the combat system, can command and control individual and independent UxV systems and their payloads, supporting the planning phase of their deployment and the level of autonomy they provide, managing the data collected and providing the command team with an up to date tactical picture from the best sources.