Rolls-Royce and Partners Push Ahead with Unmanned Ship Research

Illustration: Rolls-Royce
Illustration: Rolls-Royce plc

 

Rolls-Royce and a handful of partners are pushing ahead with the first steps of a new 6.6 million euro project that could pave the way for autonomous, unmanned ships in the not-so-distant future.

The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative, which Rolls-Royce has been appointed to lead, aims to produce the specification and preliminary designs for the next generation of advanced ship solutions – the unmanned, “drone” cargo ship.

The project is being funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) and will bring together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers, and classification societies to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors which need to be addressed to make autonomous ships a reality.

“This project is a fantastic opportunity to establish the Finnish maritime cluster as the world leader in maritime remote control technology,” said Rauli Hulkkonen, Chief Advisor of Tekes.

The project is expected to run until the end of 2017 and will pave the way for real solutions designed to validate the project’s research. The project will combine the expertise of some of Finland’s top academic researchers from Tampere University of Technology; VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd; Åbo Akademi University; Aalto University; the University of Turku; and leading members of the maritime cluster including Rolls-Royce, NAPA, Deltamarin, DNV GL and Inmarsat.

Esa Jokioinen, Rolls-Royce, Head of Blue Ocean Team, commented: “Rolls-Royce has extensive experience of successfully coordinating multi-disciplinary teams developing complex technologies. We bring a world leading range of capabilities in the marine market to the project including vessel design, the integration of complex systems and the supply and support of power and propulsion equipment. We are excited to be taking the first concrete steps towards making remote controlled and autonomous ship applications a reality.”

The wide ranging project will look at research carried out to date before exploring the business case for autonomous applications, the safety and security implications of designing and operating remotely operated ships, the legal and regulatory implications and the existence and readiness of a supplier network able to deliver commercially applicable products in the short to medium term. The technological work stream, which will be led by Rolls-Royce, will encompass the implications of remote control and autonomy of ships for propulsion, deck machinery and automation and control, using, where possible, established technology for rapid commercialization.

The Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean team is responsible for research and development of future maritime technologies and focuses on disruptive game-changing innovations. By combining new technologies with new approaches to ship design and system integration, the team aims to reduce operational costs, minimize emissions and enhance the earning capability of vessels. The team has developed a range of autonomous ship concepts as well as innovative designs for various ship types.