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Rolls-Royce and ESA bring space technologies to autonomous ships

Rolls-Royce and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a cooperation agreement that will see the organisations work together in harnessing space-based technologies to support autonomous and remote controlled shipping.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}Rolls-Royce and ESA will aim to develop and validate new options for communication between vessel systems and shore based networks, in addition to ship-to-ship communication, including the use of next generation of 5G communications integrated with telecom networks and services.

ESA notes that it already has an existing ‘Satellite for 5G Initiative’ in place to support the development of these technologies and the commercial services that will be enabled by their introduction.

“The space industry has been operating assets remotely for many decades. The information, software and satellite-based technologies the sector has developed are wholly relevant to the work Rolls-Royce is doing to make the remote and autonomous ship a reality,” said Karno Tenovuo, Rolls-Royce, SVP ship intelligence.

“The current wireless carriers like satellite and associated infrastructure need to be developed to facilitate the development of remote and autonomous ships, as existing configurations were not designed for this purpose.”

“Rolls-Royce and the ESA will look at developing satellite-based positioning for ‘smart’ ships which will be based on its ‘earth observation platform’. This could create greater spatial and situational awareness for those operating the vessel remotely. It will also allow satellites to capture and share the data from a number of vessels simultaneously.”

The two organisations also plan to cooperate in harnessing the power of Big Data as part of the agreement, to further research into Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the creation of vessel ‘digital twins’.

“(The digital twin) allows any aspect of an asset to be explored through a digital interface,” said Mr Tenovuo, “creating a virtual test bench to assess the safety and performance of a vessel and its systems, both before its construction and through its lifecycle.”

“By creating ships and ship technology in a virtual environment, new ideas and technology can be realised and tested in a shorter time frame.”{/mprestriction}

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