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Maritime Digitalisation & Communications

Autonomous ship navigation study begins

Wed 06 Dec 2017 by Martyn Wingrove

Autonomous ship navigation study begins
BMT’s Rembrandt simulator will be combined with ASV Global’s autonomous vessel control simulator

A group of UK-based companies has started a new £1.2M (US$1.6M) research project to investigate how autonomous vessels could co-exist with manned ships. BMT has teamed up with ASV Global and Deimos Space UK for the Shared Waterspace Autonomous Navigation by Satellite (Swans) project.

With funding from Innovate UK these companies will investigate how autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) can use existing and future satellite capabilities for collision avoidance and communications.

This is particularly focused on autonomous vessels operating beyond the horizon of shore and in congested maritime traffic, BMT managing director Phil Thompson explained, adding that the few autonomous vessels already developed use the global automatic identification system (AIS) for collision avoidance.

“But they remain at risk of colliding with vessels or objects not using AIS,” he said in a statement. Others rely upon waterspace management and the actions of other water users to avoid collisions. “Neither of which go far enough in reducing the risk of a collision occurring,” Mr Thompson added. 

He said the project would be “critical in helping us to overcome this barrier by developing the first-ever commercially ready, safe over the horizon operating system for congested waterspaces”.

BMT’s Rembrandt ship manoeuvring simulator will be used in the project. ASV Global will bring its experience in conducting operations with unmanned vessels out of sight of land using an advanced autonomous navigation system.

ASV Global sales and marketing director Vince Dobbin said the project “has the potential to open up a multitude of applications for the operation of ASVs in busy waterspaces”.

The project team will focus on main objectives including:

  • Exploiting satellite sensing technology.
  • Enabling the delivery of a higher fidelity world model for vessel operators and supervisors.
  • Simulating new scenarios for ASV operations.

During the Swans project, the team will combine ASV Global’s autonomous vessel control simulator and BMT’s Rembrandt simulator into a single suite capable of visualising different datasets in 3D and to evaluate new multi-vessel conflict scenarios in the real world.

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