Drone ships – “This is happening”

Rolls-Royce’s Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) project has unveiled its vision for how remote and autonomous drone ships will become a reality.

The project’s first year findings were presented at a conference at Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall last week.

Autonomous shipping is the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smart phone, the smart ship will revolutionize the landscape of ship design and operations,” commented Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Marine, speaking at the conference.

Rolls-Royce says that constant real-time remote monitoring of vessels worldwide will see ships become more closely integrated into logistics or supply chains, enabling global companies to focus on how to best use whole fleets, generating cost savings and improving revenue generation. This has the potential to create new shipping services, such as online cargo service marketplaces, more efficient pooling and leasing of assets, and new alliances. Some of these services will support existing players in the market and others will be more disruptive, allowing new players to enter and potentially capture a significant share of business in the same way as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb have done in other industries, according to Rolls-Royce.

“Remote and autonomous ships have the potential to redefine the maritime industry and the roles of the players in it with implications for shipping companies, shipbuilders and maritime systems providers, as well as technology companies from other sectors, especially automotive,” said Jouni Saarni, Development Manager, Centre for Collaborative Research at the Turku School of Economics.

“This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when,” said Oskar Levander, VP of Innovation at Rolls-Royce Marine at the close of the conference. “This work supports the development of remote controlled and autonomous vessels and will enable proof of concept demonstration following the completion of the project. We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”

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Image credit: Rolls Royce

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