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Autonomous Ship Navigation Challenge

Unlocking Autonomous Navigation Challenge

ADMIRALTY Marine Innovation Programme

The ADMIRALTY Marine Innovation Programme helps innovators and start-ups to develop new solutions that  support safe, secure and thriving oceans.

For this challenge we are looking for participants to identify, trial and prove how navigational data can be used to support the safe navigation of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships. Each entrant will have access to world leading ADMIRALTY data and expertise, with winners receiving prizes worth £175,000 and an opportunity to launch their product in a sector estimated to be worth £111bn by 2030.

Why should I participate?

  • As an participant, you'll be given the opportunity to work closely with the UK Hydrographic Office to develop your solution for a sector that's estimated to be worth £111bn by 2030

  • To develop your product concept, you will be given access to world-leading navigation products and data, as well as wide-ranging expertise from UKHO teams

  • The winner will receive prizes estimated to be worth £175,000, including hands-on support and marine geospatial information, in addition to a seat at the IoT Tribe Space Endeavour Accelerator to further develop technologies using satellite-derived data

Please note: Applications for this challenge are now closed and the winners will be announced on November the 2nd. Throughout 2020 and 2021, we will launch a number of additional challenges that give innovators a chance to develop solutions for maritime insurance, tidal and wave energy generation, blue carbon sequestration and sea-level rise modelling.

Find out about our current innovation challenges >

Your challenge: How can marine geospatial data support the safe navigation of commercial autonomous ships?

The possibility of partially or fully autonomous ships promises to be nothing short of transformative for the maritime industry. By 2030, we estimate the global autonomous shipping sector to be worth a staggering £111 billion and employ over 554,000 people. 

As the sector grows, these ships will need to travel safely between ports, react to dynamic situations and operate differently when entering locations such as Marine Protected Areas and MARPOL boundaries. 

Whilst sense and avoid technologies can support some of these tasks, these ships will need accurate and compliant navigational data to travel safely. However, today’s navigation products and services are not designed for use by autonomous technology, with mariners using experience, training and what they see out of the window to safely interpret and use a nautical chart. 

Your challenge is to identify, trial and prove how navigational data can be used to support the safe navigation of Marine Autonomous Surface Ships.

Read our full Blue Economy report on the Autonomous Vessels sector >

 Entrants will get access to world leading ADMIRALTY data and UKHO expertise

What you'll receive

As providers of world-leading, official and compliant navigation products, the UK Hydrographic Office will provide a range of data to entrants to help you develop your solution.

Participants will also get the chance to work with leading experts in research, design and development at the UK Hydrographic Office throughout the challenge.

Find out more about the data sets and expertise we'll provide >


The winner will receive hands-on support and marine geospatial information from the UKHO (estimated to be worth £75,000) to develop an alpha product to test in the market. They will also be offered a seat at the IoT Tribe Space Endeavour Accelerator, estimated to be worth £100,000. 

Find out more and enter >

Throughout the innovation programme, participants will receive support from UKHO staff and access to wide range of ADMIRALTY data when developing their own solutions. Below you will find more information on the resources available for the autonomous navigation challenge.


We hold a wealth of marine geospatial data from the seabed, to the coast, offshore and beyond. This includes vast amounts of hydrographic and oceanographic data, ranging from seabed composition samples and bathymetric profiles of the seafloor, to tidal and navigational information. 

To support this challenge, we will provide data for one of the best surveyed areas of the UK's territorial waters. These sets will include:

Coastal data

Satellite Derived Coastline data sets containing coastline vectors at various states of the tide. 

Coastline and other associated features (e.g. shoreline construction).

Tidal heights and tidal streams data

Tidal predictions around the UK from the country's largest network of tidal stations.

A rich tidal prediction beta API offering providing full prediction capabilities.

Bathymetry data

Extensive UK bathymetry holdings (over 4,000 bathymetry surfaces from 1970 to present day) ranging from high resolution data to processed individual data sets.

Deconflicted data sets that provides a seamless view of the shape of the seafloor in given areas, and could also include contours, soundings and depth areas.

VORF data

Vertical Offshore Reference Frame (VORF) that can be used to transform vertical height information across reference levels in UK land, coastal and offshore zones.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas for around the UK.

​Maritime limits and boundaries

​Data sets and illustrations for the UK, UK Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories.

​Contextual Sailing Directions data

​Supplementary information currently provided in the world-leading ADMIRALTY Sailing Directions publications, produced for a discrete area to be machine readable (e.g. speed limits and vessel restrictions).

​Offshore infrastructure data sets

Over 7,500 surface and subsurface offshore energy installations and infrastructure in UK waters, including oil and gas platforms, wind turbines, well heads, pipelines and respective safety zones.


​Extensive UK data set (over 8,000 live and charted wrecks) of current and historic wrecks and obstructions for around the UK.

​Aquaculture sites

​Aquaculture sites for around the UK.


​Internationally agreed standard for defining the quality of hydrographic surveys in a given area.

​Maritime Practice and Exercise Area (PEXA) limits

PEXA limits for the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Seabed composition

Almost 50,000 grab samples from UK waters, providing information on the make-up of the seabed.

​ENCs Feature Level

Delivered as unencrypted ENC files.

UK Hydrographic Office expertise

From hydrography and oceanography to software engineering and data science, our team of experts have wide-ranging knowledge and experience in developing solutions to help commercial and government partners make the best use of our oceans. Throughout the task, participants will get to work alongside some of these teams, to gain support along the journey of turning initial ideas into innovative product propositions. 

You will be offered support in the following areas:

  • Market and user research
    Our dedicated user research teams can help ensure your product meets user needs by helping to plan, manage and support all research. This could include conducting surveys, interviews, UX and user journey mapping, competitor analysis and persona creation.

  • Design
    Based on your research results, we can support you in creating user-centred designs and propositions, including wireframes and prototypes. We use an iterative design and test approach to ensure all decisions are made with business and user needs at the forefront.

  • GIS development
    With this user insight, our teams can offer extensive knowledge and expertise of geospatial data and tooling to help you create and develop a proof of concept. This proof of concept will not only prove the technical feasibility of your idea, but also minimise the risk in moving from an alpha product to market.

  • Delivery management
    Finally, to deliver the activities required for an alpha release, we can provide further support from planning (to ensure desirability, feasibility and viability) through to managing change and engaging stakeholders.

A timeline of key dates for this challenge are outlined below, including the deadline to submit your initial proposal, through to the judges' evaluation and announcement of the winning solution.


Submit your application​

Fill in the application form below. We will then assess each application and contact successful applicants. The deadline for submissions is 7 October.


​Selected teams notified 

5 successful applicants will be invited to participate in a design sprint challenge and gain access to cutting edge data and expertise.



You will receive guidance and access to the UKHO data sets and tools to collaborate during the competition

Design sprint week

You will then take part in a design event where teams will work together online to design and develop a prototype product to test with real life users in the autonomous shipping sector.


Evaluation of solutions 

A panel of UKHO experts will evaluate the final prototypes against the winning criteria and provide feedback.

Demo Day (Winner announcement)

The successful team will be announced, after which the UKHO will provide support to take the winning solution to market.

Find out more about entry requirements and how to enter >

Applications for this challenge are now closed; details about upcoming challenges can be found on the Marine Innovation Programme homepage.

You can read more about the winning solution for this challenge below.

Find out about the winning solution > 

ADMIRALTY Marine Innovation Programme > 

The UKHO panel will select the best applicants to participate in the Design Sprint week. By the end of the Design Sprint week, participating teams will be required to submit their solutions and the winner will be announced based on the following criteria:

  • Number of data sets (from the selection provided) that have been used in the final solution

  • Revenue opportunity and the number of potential clients who will use the solution

  • Feasibility of the solution and ability to deliver, including team structure, skills and size

  • How the team will make use of UKHO subject matter expertise and support

  • Attractiveness of commercialisation plan (including speed at which it can be brought to market)

  • Level of exposure and publicity the partnership would generate for the UKHO