Rolls-Royce has unveiled a concept design for an autonomous naval vessel that could lead to future designs of unmanned workboats and commercial ships. The vessel would have a range of the latest automation and intelligent monitoring systems and remote diagnostics, a range of 3,500 nautical miles and operate for over 100 days beyond a horizon of site.
With a length of 60 m, the vessel will have a displacement of 700 tonnes and top speed of 25 knots. Rolls-Royce said the vessel was designed “to perform a range of single-role missions”, including patrol and surveillance, mine detection and fleet screening.
Rolls-Royce would introduce a suite of automation and asset management systems, including an equipment health monitor, tools for predictive and remote maintenance and energy management.
In a major technology leap, Rolls-Royce has developed an intelligent awareness system that includes multiple sensors installed on mission-critical components and computers that incorporate levels of artificial intelligence. There would also be strict cyber security mechanisms to prevent cyber attacks.
For long periods of remote operations, the vessel would have electric propulsion, energy storage and diesel engines – two MTU 4000 series generator sets that provide 4 MW of electrical power to a 1.5 MW propulsion drive. It would have permanent magnet Azipull thrusters and a bow tunnel thruster. Energy storage would include a 3,000 kWh unit that will be used for low-speed operations. The vessel would also be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels to provide power when the vessel is on standby.
Rolls-Royce general manager for naval electrics, automation and control, Benjamin Thorp said there was interest in autonomous ship concept designs from several navies worldwide. “Such ships offer to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut both operating and construction costs,” he said.
Many of the technologies to develop autonomous commercial vessels and naval ships already exist. It is anticipated that the first remote controlled vessels will be operating by 2020 using some of the technology that has already been developed for naval vessels and autonomous underwater vehicles.