Rolls-Royce to ‘man’ autonomous ship with Google AI software

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 08, 2018

Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine will be used to detect, identify and track objects a vessel can encounter at sea

Aerospace and defence manufacturer Rolls-Royce is looking to create an autonomous naval vessel.

The company has teamed up with Google to develop Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness software, which is already in use on ships, and will play a central role in the company’s drive towards autonomous vessels.

With autonomous cars and trucks round the corner, and drones increasingly finding use in defence and battlefield applications, autonomous warships could well be the future of defence, state market experts. Rolls-Royce's move has obvious applications in large markets such as defence and shipping. Asked why Rolls-Royce is interested in autonomous vessels, Kishore Jayaraman, President, Rolls-Royce - India and SA, told BusinessLine: “We are pioneering the development of remotely controlled and autonomous ships and believe there will be one in commercial use by the end of the decade. We are applying technology, skills and experience from across the Group's businesses to this project."

Sighting interest from major navies in autonomous, rather than remote-controlled ships that offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut operating costs, Rolls-Royce's autonomous Naval vessel will have a range of 3,500 nautical miles and will be able to operate for over 100 days.

The 60-m long ship will be designed to perform a range of single role missions such as patrol and surveillance, mine detection, and patrol coastlines for military purposes.

To ‘man’ its autonomous ship, Rolls-Royce has incorporated the latest in navigation technology, combining an array of sensors with an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered computer.

Earlier this year, the company signed a deal with Swedish ferry company Stena Line AB, to collaborate in the development of its first intelligent awareness system.

The system will make vessels safer and more efficient to operate by providing crew.

"This will be achieved by fusing data from a range of sensors with information from the existing ship systems, such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) and radar," explained Jayaraman.

Rolls-Royce has also teamed up with Google Cloud to make autonomous ships a reality, and will use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to train Rolls-Royce's AI based object classification system, which is a software intended to detect, identify and track objects a vessel can encounter at sea.

Jayaraman added the "collection and analysis of significant quantities of operating data and the development of enhanced analytic capabilities will be crucial to the development of remote and autonomous ships."

Robust trends could be drawn and valid predictions of ship reliability made, especially if ships would need to operate at sea for several weeks without in-board engineers.

Published on October 11, 2017

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