News from our Members and Partners

19 June 2017

IMarEST awards AU$14,000 Laurie Prandolini Fellowship for research into collaborative autonomous marine fleets

The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) has awarded its prestigious Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship of AU$14,000 to Fletcher Thompson. Fletcher holds a BEng degree in Naval Architecture and is a PhD candidate at the Australian Maritime College of the University of Tasmania.

This fellowship will go towards supporting Fletcher’s PhD research project, Project FOX. Project FOX (Fleet Operations and eXpeditions) aims to establish distributed intelligence into an autonomous marine vehicle fleet to exhibit collaborative behaviours.

Greg Hellessey from the IMarEST’s Victoria Branch said: 

“Out of all the applications from across Australia, Fletcher’s was an absolute stand-out in that it was clear it would be ground-breaking work at a national and international level. His work here is pushing into new ground in the maritime sphere around the world.”

IMarEST awards AU$14,000 Laurie Prandolini Fellowship for research into collaborative autonomous marine fleetsAutonomous marine vehicles have the capability to collaborate and chieve multi-faceted and complicated missions that the current industry standard solo platform would be unable to complete. Missions include persistent and sustainable environment monitoring; autonomous monitoring and maintenance of subsea systems and structures. The underlying requirement is that the vehicles within the fleet must be capable of recognising their ability to contribute to a task in a collaborative manner.

Fletcher Thompson added:

“This fellowship is such an exciting injection for my research – suddenly, much more is possible. It will fund the equipment needed for physical experiments which will extend my research, building on my existing computer-based modelling and bringing the results into the real world.” 

Project FOX’s secondary aim is to pursue real world fleet-specific tasks and scenarios to provide basis of applicability for a heterogeneous autonomous marine vehicle fleet. To achieve this aim, Fletcher seeks to implement an aerial, surface, and subsea fleet that is capable of performing search and rescue missions for an extended time at sea. He aims to demonstrate the capabilities of such fleets and to outline that the scope of missions for which such a fleet can be configured has no restrictions.

Now, with the support of the IMarEST’s Laurie Prandolini Research Fellowship, Fletcher will be able to obtain additional equipment for these vehicles and extend the scope of Project FOX. These resources, such as embedded high performance 3D image processing systems; laser scanning modules; and, high resolution mono and stereo camera units will greatly improve the navigation, and environmental sensing abilities of the fleet, to a globally competitive level.



IMarEST is the international professional body and learned society for all marine professionals. With over 20,000 members in 128 countries, the IMarEST is the first Institute to bring together marine engineers, marine scientists and marine technologists into one international multi-disciplinary professional body.In addition to a wide range of services, including publishing The Marine Professional, the Institute organises Learned Society events for its members and the wider industry, these include: the Engine As A Weapon International Symposia (EAAW); Marine Electrical and Control Systems Safety Conference (MECSS) and the International Naval Engineering Conference and Exhibition (INEC); the Learned Society events are organised by FIGS Events Limited on behalf of IMarEST.