The Norwegian government has opened the world’s first test area for drone ships in the latest sign that the industry’s move towards autonomous shipping is actually happening.
The test area is located in the Trondheim fjord, a large fjord located on the west-central part of the country along the Norwegian Sea. The agreement designating the test area was signed last week by the Norwegian Maritime Authority and the Norwegian Coastal Administration.
“We do not yet know how widespread autonomy will be in future shipping, but for the Norwegian Maritime Authority, it is imperative to be a central participant in this development,” says Director General of Shipping and Navigation, Olav Akselsen.
Also taking part in the initiative is the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Kongsberg Seatex, Kongsberg Maritime, MARINTEK and Maritime Robotics. After the signing of the agreement last week, NTNU and Sintef will start using the area for testing.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in the shipping industry nowadays, both within autonomy and within new environmentally friendly solutions,” says Akselsen. “The Norwegian Maritime Authority is an important partner for those who deal in innovation. We wish to cooperate with the industry so that we can be leading in the development of rules and regulations that take into consideration the new technical solutions.”
So far leading the effort in the shipping industry’s push towards the development of so-called drone ships has been Rolls-Royce, along with the Finnish government. As part of its efforts, Rolls Royce is leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications project, considered a key project that could pave the way for autonomous, unmanned ships in the not-so-distant future.
In September Finland set a target of having the first unmanned maritime products, services and a “vivid ecosystem” by 2025.