Engineering award helps sharpen Navy's 21st century sword

Published on LEUT Rilana Ostheim (author), LACW Jacqueline Forrester (photographer)

Topic(s): Honours, Awards and Trophies, Navy Engineering, Science, Technology & Innovation

L-R: Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan AO, RAN congratulates Lieutenant James Keane, RAN, recipient of the Holthouse Memorial Scholarship, presented by Mr Guy Holthouse at Sea Power Conference 19, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney. (photo: LACW Jacqueline Forester)
L-R: Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan AO, RAN congratulates Lieutenant James Keane, RAN, recipient of the Holthouse Memorial Scholarship, presented by Mr Guy Holthouse at Sea Power Conference 19, at the International Convention Centre, Sydney.

The chance to pursue a graduate research project outside of his busy daily engineering life has opened up new opportunities for a driven Navy officer.

Capability Realisation Engineer, Lieutenant James Keane, has recently been awarded the Holthouse Memorial Scholarship to further his research with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles.

“To be awarded the scholarship underlines the work I have done so far within the maritime engineering field, and supports me to dig deeper into an area that will become highly important over the next century,” Lieutenant Keane said.

“One of the key challenges for the Royal Australian Navy in sharpening our 21st century sword will be the development of expertise across the engineering spectrum, from design and construction of traditional ships and submarines, to control systems for platforms with increasingly complex levels of autonomy.

“I see significant opportunities for Navy Engineering to sharpen the fighting force by informing and supporting the increased use of robotics and autonomous capability,” he said.

During his undergraduate honours studies towards a Marine Engineer Officer degree, Lieutenant Keane became heavily involved with autonomy projects, such as autonomous underwater vehicles, unmanned surface vessels, control systems and computer vision.

“Autonomous underwater vehicles will play key roles in future subsea and amphibious capability, including for mine-countermeasures, surveying, and anti-submarine warfare,” Lieutenant Keane said.

“Long-term, the US Office of Naval Research sees large-diameter autonomous underwater vehicles, such as robotic submarines, as critical for future subsea warfare.”

With the support of the Australian Maritime College, Defence Science and Technology Group and Navy, Lieutenant Keane has already lead maritime engineering research projects in Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Iceland, and presented his research in autonomous underwater vehicle homing at the US Naval Undersea Warfare Centre, and at conferences in Australia, China, Singapore and the USA.

“The Holthouse Memorial Scholarship will enable me to further develop my research, while directly contributing to a variety of Navy projects,” Lieutenant Keane said.

“My research topic specifically shows that Navy is capable of dealing with a diverse range of platforms, with increasing artificial intelligence.

“It demonstrates that traditional engineering problems can incorporate higher levels of sophistication as our era of continuous shipbuilding integrates trusted autonomous systems,” he said.

The Holthouse Memorial Scholarship encourages the development of professional engineering mastery as a means to grow naval engineering capability, and may be used to undertake study, research or professional development in a navy engineering field.