Ship Could Set Sail Soon.
Move over, self-driving cars. Rolls-Royce aims to change the global shipping industry with its latest AI innovation: a fully autonomous ship.
In a press statement, Rolls-Royce and Finferries, a Finnish state-owned ferry operator, announced that they’ve successfully tested the “world’s first fully autonomous ferry” in an archipelago near the city of Turku, Finland.
Falco, a 53.8-meter car ferry, leveraged Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to autonomously navigate between the Parainen and Nauvo islands in Finland. Even though the return journey was operated under remote control, the Falco completed basic ship tasks, including mooring and navigation, by itself for half of the trip.
During the pilot voyage, the Falco had 80 guests on board and a human crew on standby. AI and sensor fusion enabled the vessel to detect objects, while collision-avoidance technology prevented the boat from bumping into other objects.
The Falco is equipped with advanced sensors that allow it to visualize a detailed picture of its surroundings in real time. This image is created by fusing sensor data that is received by Finferries’ remote operating center located in Turku. From there, a captain tracks the Falco’s autonomous operations and can take control of the ship if there’s an issue.
Rolls-Royce has clocked in almost 400 hours of sea trials for the Falco autonomous ship. During this testing phase, the vessel’s Rolls-Royce Autodocking system, a feature that enables the boat to automatically change its course and speed when it approaches a quay, and automatically dock without human help.
In early 2018, Finferries and Rolls-Royce started collaborating on a new project dubbed Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation (SVAN), to continue researching findings from a previous Advanced Autonomous Waterbourne Applications (AAWA) research project that was financially supported by Business Finland, a public funding agency directed by the Finnish Ministry of Employment.
“Today marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen,” Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce’s commercial marine president, said in the press statement. “The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to showcase to the world how ship intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships.”