Executive Briefings

Aye, Aye, Captain Robot

Last week, the Rolls-Royce led Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) project presented its first findings at a conference in Helsinki, expressing high hopes for vessel automation in commercial service -- and predicting that it will arrive soon.

"Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smart phone, the smart ship will revolutionize the landscape of ship design and operations," said Mikael Makinen, president of Rolls-Royce's marine division. The firm envisions a future in which new entrants could capture a significant share of business, in the same way as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb have done in other industries.

The AAPA initiative’s researchers suggested that engineering hurdles would not be a major obstacle. "The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist – the sensor technology needed is sound and commercially available and the algorithms needed for robust decision support systems – the vessel’s ‘virtual captain’ – are not far away. The challenge is to find the optimum way to combine them cost effectively in a marine environment,” said Jonne Poikonen, senior research fellow at the University of Turku and a leader of the project's technology research.

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"Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smart phone, the smart ship will revolutionize the landscape of ship design and operations," said Mikael Makinen, president of Rolls-Royce's marine division. The firm envisions a future in which new entrants could capture a significant share of business, in the same way as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb have done in other industries.

The AAPA initiative’s researchers suggested that engineering hurdles would not be a major obstacle. "The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist – the sensor technology needed is sound and commercially available and the algorithms needed for robust decision support systems – the vessel’s ‘virtual captain’ – are not far away. The challenge is to find the optimum way to combine them cost effectively in a marine environment,” said Jonne Poikonen, senior research fellow at the University of Turku and a leader of the project's technology research.

Read Full Article