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Autonomous ships ‘meet or exceed’ COLREGS when encountering manned vessels Featured

The systems were tested aboard AEUK’s ARCIMS Unmanned Surface Vessel The systems were tested aboard AEUK’s ARCIMS Unmanned Surface Vessel

Rolls-Royce reports that results from the £1.3 million MAXCMAS (MAchine eXecutable Collision regulations for Marine Autonomous Systems) research project have demonstrated that the operation of autonomous vessels can meet, if not exceed, current collision avoidance (COLREG) rules.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The research, by project partners Lloyd’s Register, Warsash Maritime Academy (WMA), Queen’s University Belfast and Atlas Elektronik (AEUK), found that use of newly developed algorithms allowed existing COLREGs to remain relevant in a crewless environment, and showed that Artificial Intelligence-based navigation systems were able to enact the rules to avoid collision effectively, even when approaching manned vessels which were interpreting the rules differently.

The project used WMA’s networked bridge simulators in testing the technologies, analysing reactions from the crew when faced with simulations of a range of real-world situations to subsequently hone the MAXCMAS algorithms.

“Through MAXCMAS, we have demonstrated autonomous collision avoidance that is indistinguishable from good seafarer behaviour and we’ve confirmed this by having WMA instructors assess MAXCMAS exactly as they would assess the human,” said Rolls-Royce future technologies group’s Eshan Rajabally, who led the project.

During the development project a commercial-specification bridge simulator was adapted for use as a testbed for autonomous navigation, and used to validate autonomous seafarer-like collision avoidance in likely real-world scenarios.

Various simulator-based scenarios were designed, with the algorithms installed in one of WMA’s conventional bridge simulators. This also included Atlas Elektronik’s ARCIMS mission manager ‘Autonomy Engine’, Queen’s University Belfast’s Collision Avoidance algorithms and a Rolls-Royce interface.

During sea trials aboard AEUK’s ARCIMS Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), collision avoidance was successfully demonstrated in a real environment under true platform motion, sensor performance and environmental conditions.

“The trials showed that an unmanned vessel is capable of making a collision avoidance judgement call even when the give-way vessel isn’t taking appropriate action,” said Ralph Dodds, innovation & autonomous systems programme manager, AEUK.

“What MAXCMAS does is make the collision avoidance regulations applicable to the unmanned ship.”{/mprestriction}

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