Georgie Barrett — The Mirror June 27, 2016
Rolls-Royce have unveiled plans to build entirely robotic ships, that will be controlled remotely on land.
By 2020 the car manufacturing company hope to have a fleet of drone ships sailing around the world, without a single sailor on-board.
The video marks the final stage of research that will inform the shipping design concept, labelled as the ‘oX’ operator experience.
The film shows how the ships will be controlled from a remote operation centre, specifically designed for unmanned vessels.
Just two captains can operate the entire ship from a central “holodeck”, using a range of technology that will monitor and control the vessel.
Drone inspections will record what is happening on-board and around the ship, whilst detailed vessel data will give the crew enhanced situational awareness and operation summaries.
Despite the crew being firmly based on land, they will still be able to see and hear what’s happening on-board.
Microphones will let them hear sounds from the vessel and windows will double as augmented reality screens to alert operators to hazards, including icebergs and other ships.
The video released looks much like a scene from a sci-fi movie. The high-tech setup sees the operators interacting with smart screens, voice recognition systems and holograms.
The research project was first announced in 2014.
Rolls-Royce, working with VTT and University of Tampere research centre TAUCHI, drew inspiration from other industries that regularly use remote operation such as aviation, energy and space exploration
Oskar Levander, the Vice President of Marine Innovation at Rolls-Royce, said: “This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships already exist.
“We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”
In a white paper exploring their research, the company explained how they could use the latest digital techniques to create safer and more energy efficient ships.
“With the demands of environmental legislation and rising operating costs, ships are going to become more complex.
“Unmanned ships open up exciting possibilities to redefine the way a ship is designed and functions.
“When there are no people on board, many constraints are removed.”
Questions around how the ship will be able to complete unforeseen repairs, protect itself against hijackers and find appropriate insurance policies, are yet to be fully explored.