Published: 2018-12-04

World's first autonomous ferry operations take place in Finland

Technology World's first autonomous ferry operations take place in Finland

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Finferries, a state-owned ferry operator, and Rolls-Royce have successfully carried out what is said to be the first fully autonomous ferry crossing in the world.

The 53.8 m-long double-ended ferry Falco used a combination of technologies developed by Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence to successfully navigate autonomously between Parainen and Nauvoduring her 15 minutes-long voyage (the return journey was conducted under remote control).

According to Finferries and Rolls-Royce, the ship is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows it to build in real-time a detailed picture of its surroundings and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye. The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data and it is relayed to Finferries' remote operating centre on land, located in Turku; here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, but can take control of the vessel if necessary.

During the crossing in autonomous mode, the vessel detected objects utilising sensor fusion and Artificial Intelligence and conducted collision avoidance. It also demonstrated automatic berthing with a recently developed autonomous navigation system. This feature, Rolls-Royce Autodocking, enables the ferry to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention.

Earlier this year, Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on a new research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), to continue implementing the findings of their previous Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project (funded by Business Finland). During the autonomous operation tests in the Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials.

"Today marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen. The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to showcase to the world how Ship Intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships," Mikael Mäkinen, Rolls-Royce, President-Commercial Marine, said.

He added, "This is a very proud moment for all of us and marks our most significant milestone so far. Today's demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it."

Mats Rosin, CEO, Finferries, also commented, "We are very proud that maritime history has been made on the Parainen-Nauvo-route once again. First with our world-renowned hybrid vessel Elektra and now Falco as the world’s first autonomous ferry. As a modern ship-owner our main goal in this cooperation has been on increasing safety in marine traffic as this is beneficial for both the environment and our passengers. But we are also equally excited about how this demonstration opens the door to the new possibilities of autonomous shipping and safety."

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