How an SME has changed the game for maritime innovation, by Olly Shepherd, Director of Operations
As an ex-military man, I have been in situations where I have been extremely grateful for technological advances in the defence sector. These may often have been as a consequence of gradual upgrade or improvement to existing capabilities. However, I also understand the need for recombinant innovation; learning and combining existing and complimentary capabilities to make a new product; one more suited to addressing emerging needs and threats.
VICTA is, to my mind, the perfect representation of this type of innovation. In creating a world-leading diver delivery unit (DDU) – harnessing many of the characteristics of a long-range insertion craft (LRIC) along with those of a submersible, we have created something new. Partnership with leading high-performance yacht makers, BAR Technologies, incorporating fly by wire technology and a fully sub-marinized engine has allowed us to combine an array of leading-edge capabilities to create something game changing for defence and the marine industry.
Historically the defence sector has featured at the forefront of technological innovation and right now there is a significant area of opportunity in digitisation, specifically in using it to optimise the technology we use. We have designed the craft in a fully digitised way, creating a digital twin to support the manufacturing process, allowing us to test, qualify and learn, whilst a standardised digital thread connects the twin to the physical build. This allows development at pace, all the time cognizant of budgetary considerations and maintenance needs.
As a small and agile team featuring significant defence experience we can intuitively represent the needs of the user however, we have to acknowledge inherent biases. This is why a strong partnering ethos is important to us – encouraging a positive culture of cognitive diversity which is energising for everyone involved. For example, we are able to augment our internal experience with the best in industry: BAR Technologies - contributing to design and control system; SeaTek - developing a fully sub-marinized engine as well as an array of other partners working with us on our sonar, radar, electric thrusters and batteries.
It is this collaboration of experts in individual fields that enables the development and build of a truly innovative craft that is fully fit for purpose. Using machine learning in our digital twin allows for the continued development and modification to meet different operational employment options. VICTA has a flexibility previously unseen in the defence industry. Not only can it be launched from air, land or sea without recourse to expensive strategic assets, it is also able to navigate independently over range at speed, both above and below the surface, delivering divers mission-ready.
There is significant scope for this type of digital innovation in the maritime industry and the introduction of VICTA is, we believe, just the start.