Rolls-Royce launches partnership to develop smart, autonomous ships


Rolls-Royce on Monday announced a strategic partnership with Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre to design, test, and validate the first generation of remotely controlled and automated ships.

Rolls-Royce, which has positioned itself as a leader in the development of remote controlled and autonomous ships, believes a remote controlled ship, or so-called drone ship, will be in commercial use by the end of the decade.

VTT has experience in ship simulation and expertise in the development and management of safety-critical and complex systems in demanding environments. They combine physical tests such as model and tank testing, with digital technologies, such as data analytics and computer visualization. They will also use field research to incorporate human factors into safe ship design. As a result of working with the Finnish telecommunications sector, VTT also has extensive experience of working with 5G mobile phone technology and wi-fi mesh networks.

Rolls-Royce says working with VTT will allow it to assess the performance of remote and autonomous designs through the use of both traditional model tank tests and digital simulation, allowing the company to develop functional, safe and reliable prototypes.

“Remotely operated ships are a key development project for Rolls-Royce Marine, and VTT is a reliable and innovative partner for the development of a smart ship concept,” said Karno Tenovuo, Rolls-Royce, Vice President Ship Intelligence. “This collaboration is a natural continuation of the earlier User Experience for Complex systems (UXUS) project, where we developed totally new bridge and remote control systems for shipping.”

In recent years Rolls-Royce’s has been at the forefront of the marine industries push towards autonomous shipping. It is currently leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), which is funded by the Finnish government and brings together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers, and classification societies to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors which need to be addressed to make autonomous ships a reality.

Rolls-Royce is also a member of the Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ships (NFAS) which has the backing of the Norwegian Maritime Administration, The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Federation of Norwegian Industries and MARINTEK. NFAS’ objectives are to strengthen the cooperation between users, researchers, authorities and others that are interested in autonomous ships and their use; contribute to the development of common Norwegian strategies for development and use of autonomous ships and co-operate with other international and national bodies interested in autonomous shipping. In addition, Rolls-Royce is a founder member of the Finnish ecosystem for autonomous marine transport (DIMECC).

Erja Turunen, Executive Vice President at VTT, said: “Rolls-Royce is a pioneer in remotely controlled and autonomous shipping. Our collaboration strengthens the way we can integrate and leverage VTT’s expertise in simulation and safety validation, including the industrial Internet of Things, to develop new products and in the future, enable us to develop new solutions for new areas of application as well.”

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