Case Study: MACSYS SubSea Craft

The mission system for a revolutionary surface and sub-surface vessel


MACSYS chosen as the mission system for SubSea Craft’s pioneering diver delivery unit. It assuredly accelerates critical mission phases, and provides class-leading situational awareness and underwater communication for all crew.


• SubSea Craft required a mission system for a complex, high-performance craft operating on and below the surface
• SCISYS tailors its proven small-craft mission system, MACSYS, for underwater use
• MACSYS helps deliver on the vision for the craft, including:
o Class-leading situational awareness for entire crew
o Enhanced craft and crew safety
o Rapid submersion: twice as quick as its nearest competitor
• SCISYS responsiveness ensures SubSea Craft had the mission system ready to demonstrate to buyers at a major technology event
• The first craft is now in production, with sea trials planned for spring 2020

SubSea Craft needed a mission system for its revolutionary surface-submersible hybrid

SubSea Craft (SSC) was designing a pioneering diver delivery unit (DDU) – a vessel able to travel at high speed on the sea surface, then quickly submerge and continue its journey under water.

Rather than having mechanical controls, the SSC craft is completely ‘fly-by-wire’, meaning it needed a central mission system to monitor and, in many cases, command all onboard systems. This includes surface and sub-surface navigation using official Electronic Navigation Charts, situational awareness, buoyancy-control, underwater collision-avoidance, power management, communication and propulsion.

The conditions for those using the mission system are exceptionally challenging, particularly when underwater. The pilot and navigator will be cold, in the dark and fully submerged, with water reducing their visibility of system screens. Despite this, they must use the system to guide the craft and crew safely through the mission. This requires exceptional situational awareness for everyone on board, and the ability to control the craft effectively at all times.
Moreover, the selected mission system needed to play an important role in delivering on key promises of the SSC DDU, including facilitating fast craft start-up, as well as safe submersion in under two minutes.


We tailored our MACSYS mission system for underwater use, while automating critical mission phases

SubSea Craft and its boat design partner chose the MACSYS mission system from SCISYS as the nerve centre for the vessel. MACSYS links together key onboard and offboard systems, so benefits from a complete, real-time picture of the craft and mission. Its interfaces are intelligently designed to put the right insights and capabilities in front of crews at the right times.

To realise SSC’s pioneering vision, the three companies needed to work together closely throughout the design, build, testing and support of the vessel.

Tailoring the system for underwater use
This would be the first time MACSYS had been used in a submersible craft.

We firstly needed to identify controllers that were certified for underwater use, while ensuring the system remained easy to operate. Following a detailed review of the market, we selected an appropriate controller and waterproof buttons to sit alongside options on the screen (similar to the controls on an ATM). Our user research demonstrated that these buttons would best sit above the screen in the DDU, rather than beneath it, as is generally the case in surface vessels. Our user experience designers adapted the interface to accommodate this.

In addition, with limited visibility underwater, we created tailored interfaces for when the craft is submerged, to ensure crews maintain exceptional situational awareness and the ability to control the vessel effectively. These interface designs drew on user research and findings from our DSTL-validated study on the usability of MACSYS.
As an underwater craft, the DDU’s correct functioning and response to component failure is critical to safety. We worked with SSC and the design partner to ensure this integrity was achieved.

Situational awareness on the surface and when submerged
Out-of-the-box, MACSYS integrates with many components that provide surface situational awareness, including satellite navigation, radar, radio and cameras. Underwater use, however, requires different systems, including a collision-avoidance sonar, inertial navigation system (INS) and a Doppler velocity log (DVL). Our engineers built adapters to integrate the data coming from these systems into MACSYS, and display it appropriately. Thanks to the system’s open architecture, this was a quick process.

Effective onboard communication and full-crew situational awareness
In-vessel communication between pilots and divers has long been desired by operators of this type of craft, but challenging underwater conditions have precluded it.

The SSC DDU changes this, by putting a display in front of each diver. This has two main purposes. Firstly, it enables pilots to send charts and other information to the divers, enhancing their situational awareness. Secondly, we created a two-way text communication system using these screens, so pilots can check on the wellbeing of their crew.

Accelerating key mission phases through automation
Realising SSC’s vision of accelerating key mission phases – including start-up, diving and surfacing – required two things working in harmony: innovative design of the physical systems and intelligent automation. MACSYS enables the latter.

We set it up to orchestrate the critical dive and surfacing processes. Importantly, this includes validation of every step: if something fails, the process stops and the pilots are alerted.

Meeting stringent product development timescales
During the development of the craft, SSC had key milestones it needed to hit. One was to have the mission system ready to demonstrate to prospective customers at the 2019 DSEI event. Alongside our work on the operational craft, we ensured SSC had a fully working console and the necessary feeds of data to simulate a realistic mission.


MACSYS’s unique blend of capabilities plays a key role in creating a truly pioneering and compelling craft

The distinctive combination of capabilities that MACSYS provides is enabling SSC to take a revolutionary and appealing product to market.

Game-changing speeds and enhanced crew safety
The intelligent use of process automation and validation has a double benefit for users of the SSC DDU. Key mission phases will be significantly quicker than what conventional DDUs typically achieve, with submersion in under two minutes being around twice as fast as the nearest competition.

Moreover, transparent presentation of the status of embedded automation reduces human workload whilst keeping operators ‘in the loop’. This helps deliver class-leading levels of craft and crew safety, by all-but-eliminating the possibility of human error, but also enabling the operator to seamlessly intervene if required, for example to deal with equipment failure or other emergencies.

Increased situational awareness for all on board
The provision of screens for the entire crew is another game-changer, giving embarked divers up-to-the-minute mission information. Meanwhile, the two-way communication system means pilots will always be aware of their crews’ health.

Ready for launch
The SCISYS team had the full console and simulation ready for DSEI 2019, enabling SSC to showcase the craft’s capabilities. At the time of writing, the first craft is being built, ready for sea trials in spring 2020.


“MACSYS is key”

Bill Barfoot, CXO at SubSea Craft, says:

“Realising the vision for our craft required a state-of-the art mission system to complement the vessel’s control systems. MACSYS links everything together and is key in enabling us to create a fantastic craft that’ll be far superior to anything else that’s out there.

“The partnership between SSC, SCISYS and our design partner has been essential in getting this programme to the point we have. Discussions are open and everyone is honest with each other: if the SCISYS team sees a better way of doing something, they tell us. And they’ve been excellent at adapting to our requirements, including delivering the console and critical simulation data in time for DSEI.”




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About SCISYS Group:

Employing around 670 staff, SCISYS Group is a leading developer of information and communications technology services, e-business, web and mobile applications, editorial newsroom solutions and advanced technology solutions. The Company operates in a broad spectrum of market sectors, including Media & Broadcast, Space, Government and Defence and Commercial sectors. SCISYS clients are predominantly blue-chip and public-sector organisations. Customers include the Environment Agency, the Ministry of Defence, Airbus Defence & Space, Thales Alenia Space, Arqiva, Vodafone, the European Space Agency, Eumetsat, the BBC, Radio France, RTL, RNLI, Pets at Home, Siemens and the National Trust. The Company's registered office is in Dublin, with UK offices in Chippenham, Bristol, Leicester and Reading and German offices in Bochum, Dortmund, Darmstadt and Munich.