June 10, 2016

Rolls-Royce lays out plans for autonomous cargo ships

Rolls-Royce lays out plans for autonomous cargo ships

Ship crews could control "drone ships" from shore by 2020.

By DC Velocity Staff

When it comes to vehicles of the future, the story doesn't end with aerial drones and driverless cars and trucks. For the past few years, the iconic automotive company Rolls-Royce has been at work designing another kind of unmanned conveyance: the cargo ship.

In March, the company unveiled its vision of the land-based control centers it believes will allow small crews to remotely monitor and control unmanned ships of the future. According to plans for what the company calls the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), a land-based crew of seven to 14 people could monitor and control distant ships using tools like interactive screens, voice recognition systems, and holograms.

In the event of trouble or lost communications, they could launch surveillance drones from each ship and watch real-time video to get an overhead view or to monitor nearby events. Staff could also stream sound from on-board microphones to help them diagnose mechanical problems by listening to engine noise.

"Remote and autonomous ships have the potential to redefine the maritime industry and the roles of the players in it, with implications for shipping companies, shipbuilders, and maritime systems providers," said AAWA researcher Jouni Saarni, development manager in the Centre for Collaborative Research at Finland's Turku School of Economics, in a press release.

Rolls-Royce has released a six-minute film summarizing its research into these "shore control centers" and laying out its plan to build a demonstration version by 2020. You can watch it below.

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