Rolls-Royce has unveiled its vision of land-based control centres that it believes will remotely monitor and control the unmanned cargo ships of the future.
In a six minute film, Rolls-Royce presents a vision of the future in which a small crew of seven to 14 people monitor and control the operation of a fleet of vessels across the world.
The crew uses interactive smart screens, voice recognition systems, holograms and surveillance drones to monitor what is happening both on board and around the ship.
Iiro Lindborg, General Manager of Remote and Autonomous Operations, and Ship Intelligence at Rolls-Royce, said: “We’re living in an ever-changing world where unmanned and remote-controlled transportation systems will become a common feature of human life. They offer unprecedented flexibility and operational efficiency.
“Our research aims to understand the human factors involved in monitoring and operating ships remotely. It identifies ways crews ashore can use tools to get a realistic feel for what is happening at sea.”
The film marks the final stage of research that will inform the design and construction of a project demonstrator before the end of this decade. An effective remote operations centre is essential to the company’s plans to develop autonomous and remote controlled vessels.
These developments follow the shipping industry’s previous argument that partially autonomous ships were ‘unlikely’ in reality and that fully automated ships are more feasible for drone cargo ship operations.
The research was undertaken by VTT and the University of Tampere research centre TAUCHI (Tampere Unit for Computer Human Interaction) in collaboration with Rolls-Royce.
It explored the lessons learned from other industries where remote operation is commonplace, such as aviation, energy, defence, and space exploration.
Eija Kaasinen, Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, said: “The autonomous ship does not mean removing human beings entirely from the picture, as is sometimes stated. Unmanned ships need to be monitored and controlled and this will require entirely new kinds of work roles, tasks, tools and environments.
“The future shore control centre concept has been designed by emphasising the user experience of the human operators. By focusing on the operators’ point of view, it is possible to introduce meaningful, pleasurable and engaging new roles for the ships’ shore control centre professionals.”
The video is the latest in a series of films developed to present Rolls-Royce’s vision of future shipping known as the ‘oX’ operator experience concept and introduced in 2014.
Mikael Wahlström, Senior Scientist at VTT, said: “We need to understand current work by field studies. This allows the creation of innovations that reflect the positive aspects of existing job practices, which are not always obvious. If, for example, a mechanic can assess the engine status by hearing the engine noise, it should be beneficial to be able to do the same at a remote control centre.”
Rolls-Royce is set to reveal separate research findings in Helsinki on April 5, 2016, which it believes will set the direction for the development of remote and autonomous shipping.
Remote and autonomous ships are one of three elements of the company’s Ship Intelligence strategy, a portfolio of comprising health management solutions, optimisation and decision support, as well as remote and autonomous operations – which will enable customers to transform their operations by harnessing the power of big data.
PTI has recently launched a C-level networking event which looks at the future of autonomous container shipping ports.
(Source: Rolls Royce / YouTube)