Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing: More automation will enable them to optimize use of cargo vessels, cut fuel consumption and labor costs

Ship Operators Explore Autonomous Sailing: More automation will enable them to optimize use of cargo vessels, cut fuel consumption and labor costs, by Robert Wall and Costas Paris.

Ship designers, their operators and regulators are gearing up for a future in which cargo vessels sail the oceans with minimal or even no crew. Advances in automation and ample bandwidth even far offshore could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam. …

Rolls Poyce automated ship

British engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC is leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications initiative involving other companies and universities. …

A future unmanned ship could resemble some of the most advanced combat drones. It would sport infrared detectors, high-resolution cameras and laser sensors to monitor its surroundings. The vast troves of data would be transmitted to command centers where staff do little more than monitor progress and ensure ships are operating at optimum speeds. …

A critical step toward floating remotely controlled unmanned cargo ships on the oceans by 2030, and autonomous ones by 2035, is the ability to pass large amounts of data from ship to shore to ensure safe operations. For years, lack of affordable bandwidth has made that a challenge. A new generation of communications satellites is promising lower costs to transfer data.