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What is an Autonomous Ship?

We understand the autonomous ship as a system (see Figure 1) which consists of three essential specific components: the autonomous bridge, the autonomous engine room, and the shore control centre. The autonomous bridge is a compilation of various technologies that enable the ship to independently capture a nautical picture of the situation it faces and, based on this, to navigate in accordance with COLREG (the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), e.g. to make and implement course and voyage decisions independently.

The aim of the autonomous engine room is to equip the main and auxiliary units for propulsion, power generation and other technical tasks with automation technology that allows the vessel to operate safely without a crew aboard for a journey. The manned shore control center has the task of monitoring autonomous vessels and solving problems by remote access, if necessary.

Claudia Bosse and Hans-Christoph Burmeister, Fraunhofer CML

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