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Rolls-Royce and Stena Line to collaborate on autonomous ship technology

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Rolls-Royce is to collaborate with Swedish ferry company Stena Line to develop its first intelligent awareness system for ships – a step closer to its goal of achieving autonomous vessels.

The technology will by provide crews with an enhanced understanding of their vessel’s surroundings, make them safer, easier and more efficient to operate.

This will be achieved by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from existing ship systems; such as automatic identification system and radar. Data from other sources, including global databases, will also have a role to play.

Rolls-Royce is pioneering the development of remote controlled and autonomous ships. Earlier this month it secured a “significant” research grant from Tekes – the Finnish funding agency for innovation. The grant will enable the company to invest further in a research and development centre in Turku, Finland. Rolls-Royce plans to carry out further development projects there focused on the future development of land-based control centres, and the use of artificial intelligence in future remote and autonomous shipping operations.

The company’s marine division has strategic partnerships with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Tampere University of Technology, Norwegian University of Technology and Science, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Rolls-Royce is also collaborating with a number small companies and start-ups specialising in novel technologies.

“We have been exploring and testing how to combine sensor technologies effectively and affordably for some time,” said the director for digital & systems Asbjørn Skaro. “Pilot projects such as this will allow us to see how they can be best adapted to the needs of a commercial vessel and its crew.”

He said these pilots and development programmes are an important step towards meeting the company’s goal of having a remote-controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.

“This project gives us an opportunity to explore how new technologies can be integrated with the systems we already have on-board and to provide a more informed view of a vessel’s surroundings in an accessible and user friendly way,” added Harry Robertsson, technical director at Stena Teknik, expert technical advisors to the Swedish ferry company.

Rolls-Royce expects to have its intelligent awareness product commercially available in 2017.

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