Rolls-Royce and Intel have joined forces to develop an Intelligent Awareness System for future autonomous shipping projects.

The first entirely unmanned, crewless ships, with the self-sailing tech, are set to hit the oceans in 2025.

Inevitably, they will see crewed vessels working alongside them.

Don’t assume that this technology has rendered the lighthouse useless though. In the official simulated pictures published by Rolls-Royce, the lighthouse remains the beacon announcing land that it has always been.

Source: Rolls-Royce

Nonetheless, the new system packs a punch in the technology department; the setup includes LIDAR, radar, thermal camera, High Definition cameras, satellite data and weather forecasts. With all of the data being generated by these technologies, Intel has fitted the system with their 3D NAND solid-state drives. The drives will store up to one terabyte of compressed data per day.

It’s possible that industrial-sized, autonomously controlled vessels could be greenlit by governments across the globe before autonomous vehicles! Only time will tell.

Kevin Daffey, director of ship intelligence at Rolls-Royce said:

“It presents an unparalleled situational awareness of what’s around the vessel to the watch-keepers on the bridge, including distances, the names of the vessels that are near them, or how far they are from land. Over the next three years we’ll begin to see the first commercially-operated ships with some degree of autonomous functionality on board, moving towards vessels that can make their own decisions from around 2025 onwards.”

A network of cameras with four interface modes will ensure security onboard these ships. The captain of the vessel will have 360 degrees of awareness, due to virtual reality, 2D and 3D, Augmented Reality and Precision mode.

When a ship is faced with a narrow route, the Precision mode utilizes the Rolls-Royce LIDAR system to measure distances between the ship and any obstacles. The Augmented Reality mode overlays graphics on a live camera feed provided with Intelligent Awareness sensors. The system recognizes markers and allows the captains to track virtually anything standing in its line of sight.

On the Virtual Reality and 2D and 3D maps, real-time awareness data is fed to the ship's systems. It gives the crew much more visibility and acts like a more sophisticated version of Google Maps. In the Costa Concordia shipwreck of 2012, the onboard radar technology was turned off by the captain who was sure he could use sight alone to navigate. With the new Rolls-Royce and Intel matchup, relying on the automated sailing software will be paramount for the onboard staff.

In time, however, the onboard staff will not be needed — the ships will drive themselves.


Works Cited

Vincent, James. “Rolls-Royce Is Partnering with Intel to Make Self-Driving Ships a Reality.” The Verge, The Verge, 15 Oct. 2018, www.theverge.com/2018/10/15/17979252/self-driving-autonomous-ships-drones-intel-rolls-royce-partnership.

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