In August 2019, Kinsetsu was selected by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to provide innovative solutions for the Get the Ship in Shape Challenge. The Royal Navy’s key challenges that providers aimed to tackle were based around personnel accounting and locating (PAL) in order to minimize the Risk to Life (RtL) of Souls On Board (SOBs) in the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers.
The Queen Elizabeth Class ships have 9 decks below the flight deck – each more than 4 acres in size and comprising a total of over 8000 internal compartments. Despite their enormity, the vessels have been designed for ‘lean-crewing’, meaning they can safely sail with approximately 700 personnel onboard. As and when required for operational tasking, each vessel surges to accommodate up to 1600 sailors, aircrew, embarked military forces and support staff.
After a highly competitive evaluation process, Kinsetsu’s solution was chosen for embodiment as a Fleet Minor Trial (FMT) on HMS Queen Elizabeth (QNLZ) and HMS Prince of Wales (PWLS).
Personnel Accounting and Locating
Kinsetsu’s solution is multi-faceted but is essentially a network of ruggedised IP-rated, bulkhead and deckhead-mounted (wall and ceiling-mounted) terminals strategically placed at ingress and egress locations throughout each ship. Bulkhead-mounted readers allow members of Ship’s Company and Visitors to quickly register when they enter or leave the vessel by tapping their ID card. This provides instant visibility to the Souls-on-board Manager of who is currently on-board and who is ashore.
Deckhead-mounted readers automatically updates the web-based PAL application to give real-time visual representations of where personnel were last observed geographically, and when they entered and exited various locations. The proximity technology seamlessly updates position data without any intervention by personnel, and ‘last seen’ information is automatically updated.
For Royal Navy personnel and visitors, they can now enter and leave the ship at either the forward or aft gangway, whereas previously they had a specific gangway assigned based on where their traditional manual pegboard was located – the replacement of this antiquated system by Kinsetsu’s technology was thoroughly tested during the Fleet Trial. One of the key improvements of this approach is that authorised users can now also access historic reports of personnel’s movements onto and off the ship, which was impossible with the legacy system.
Emergency Muster Function
Kinsetsu’s solution is also valuable to the Royal Navy during shipboard emergencies, when personnel must be accounted for quickly and with certainty. Personnel can easily check into their assigned muster location using their proximity ID card. Authorised users can quickly identify who has checked in, who is at an alternative muster point, and who remains unaccounted for – all using a web browser from any terminal device.
A mobile muster terminal allows personnel to quickly check into various muster locations, should it not be possible to register at an assigned station. Muster duration and check-in times are recorded to ensure Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are met, and to identify if any personnel are unable to get to their allocated muster stations within a safe time.
The PAL system capability could be extended to allow alerts to be generated if personnel have not been seen in a defined period, have entered a hazardous or secure area, or are in any area outside of their normal role requirements or security clearances.
Outcomes and results
Kinsetsu’s solution is still officially under FMT, but we are thrilled with the solution deployed in both vessels, and feedback from the Royal Navy thus far has been incredibly positive. The system was successfully tested in HMS QNLZ throughout the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) deployment. In addition to the daily operation aboard HMS PWLS, the system also managed all delegates and officials that attended the 2021 Pacific Future Forum, which was hosted onboard the Ship.
We are successfully delivering real-time visibility of who is onboard the UK’s largest and most prestigious vessels, alongside historic data of who entered and exited the ships, and when.
With real-time visibility of SOBs entering and leaving the ship, alongside the ability to check-in early on those staff that are unexpectedly inactive, there is also a large improvement in overall personnel safety, which is reducing the overall Risk to Life.
Kinsetsu’s Chief Technology Officer, Angus McBride said, “We’re delighted with how the DASA/Royal Navy project has been deployed and managed, and to see such big impacts on personnel effectiveness, efficiencies and safety is something that gives us a huge sense of pride.
Kinsetsu exists to eradicate the unnecessary searching of assets, equipment and personnel so that people can spend more of their precious time doing the job they’ve signed up for. It’s been a privilege to genuinely partner with colleagues in the Royal Navy to deliver a solution that really does make such improvements to their organisation and the incredible people within it.”
Overcoming technical and environmental challenges of aircraft carrier deployment
Aircraft carriers are highly complex vessels that exist to operate in the very harshest of environments. Despite constant salt-water spray, water ingress, and vibrations unique to warships, the vessels and components within them must remain fully functional during deployment.
By their very nature, warships (and particularly aircraft carriers) operate in extremely hazardous environments, made even more-so given their typical payloads including everything from military aircraft and explosives to weapons and huge amounts of fuel.
The Royal Navy and its associated partners also must adhere to stringent radio frequency and electrical emission restrictions, in addition to the issues surrounding power availability, consumption and reliability. Kinsetsu also needed to ensure connectivity challenges, such as cabling and networking integration, were resolved at pace and alongside other important maintenance activity.
With our solution being fitted retrospectively (post ship-build), further challenges around time, costs and installation complexities needed to be carefully managed, reported and controlled throughout the process.
Given the environment, it was also imperative that Kinsetsu’s PAL system was designed to be resilient so that in the event of a partial loss of connectivity or system access that the platform could continue to operate. Equally, any technological solution needed to adhere to a multitude of standards laid out by the Ministry of Defence, CESG (now part of Government’s National Cyber Security Centre), the individual vessels, Health and Safety legislation and the various hardware manufacturers.
Lieutenant Will Thomas, Capital Ships Weapon Engineer in the Royal Navy and project sponsor, said:
“The PAL project has exceeded expectations; this capability is now providing positive evidence that technology can reduce the Risk to Life of Souls on Board and it was used as the primary accounting method on HMS Queen Elizabeth for her global deployment in 2021.
To achieve this success on a strategic defence platform in a highly demanding environment is remarkable for any project; to get this far from a tech demonstration project so quickly is unheard of and has been the result of solid collaboration across defence organisations and suppliers.”
George Curtis, Dstl Project Manager, added:
“The trial and deployment has generated valuable operational feedback, while providing the Royal Navy with a practical interim personnel accounting solution. It will be a significant enhancement to the safety of navy personnel, with potential for adoption on other vessels.”