Industry partnership announced in new Rolls-Royce led €6.6 million project that could pave the way for autonomous ships
Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, announced its participation in the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA) recently launched by Rolls-Royce.
The project, funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), will bring industry partners together with universities, research institutes, ship owners and other stakeholders to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors which need to be addressed in order to make autonomous ships a reality. Inmarsat’s role in the project is to provide the satellite communications link and platform, which is essential to remote control capability.
Data transfer between ships, as well as between ships and shore-based control centres, is one of the key development areas for remote controlled and autonomous ship research and forms a fundamental element of the AAWA Initiative. The AAWA Initiative will build on existing ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication platforms and their effectiveness for supporting remote control functionality. Inmarsat’s Fleet Xpress service, delivered through the company’s Global Xpress and L-band constellations, is the world’s first hybrid Ka/L-band mobile satellite system, forms the basis of the system.
“The launch of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress mobile broadband network, which forms the heart of the new Fleet Xpress service, is a real turning point for the future of the maritime industry and ideally lends itself to the AAWA Initiative,” commented Ronald Spithout, President Inmarsat Maritime.
“Fleet Xpress will enable the ship-to-shore communications required to support the remote control functionality fundamental to the realisation of the autonomous ship. The high-performance, high-throughput network will open up unlimited possibilities for maritime applications and real-time monitoring and analysis of data, for smarter shipping today and the future.” Spithout continued, “We are delighted to be partnering on this project with some of the world’s most innovative companies and institutions, and to be working at the forefront of this evolving technology.”
“The wide-ranging project will look at research carried out to date, before exploring the business case for autonomous applications, the safety and security implications of designing and operating remotely operated ships, the legal and regulatory implications and the existence and readiness of a supplier network able to deliver commercially applicable products in the short to medium term,” said Esa Jokioinen, Rolls-Royce, Head of Blue Ocean Team. “The technological work stream,” he continued, “will be led by Rolls-Royce and encompass expertise from across a range of world-leading capabilities within the marine market. We are pleased to have partners, such as Inmarsat, as part of that team, enabling us to take the first concrete steps towards making remote controlled and autonomous ship applications a reality.”
The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative will run from 2015 to the end 2017.