Rolls-Royce and Finnish ferry operator Finferries conducted a successful test of the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland.
At the time the automobile ferry “Falco” used a combination of ship intelligence technologies developed by Rolls-Royce to successfully navigate autonomously during its journey between the Finnish ports of Parainen and Nauvo. The return trip was made using a remote control system.
During the demonstration, the ship “Falco”, with 80 VIP guests on board, carried out the trip under totally autonomous control. It detected objects using fusion sensors and artificial intelligence, avoiding collisions. It also demonstrated an automatic docking maneuver with a newly developed autonomous navigation system. All of this was accomplished without any intervention from the human crew.
The “Falco” is equipped with a range of advanced sensors that allow it to create a detailed image of its surroundings, in real time and with a level of precision superior to that of the human eye. The situational awareness image is created by merging sensor data and transmitted to Finferries’ remote operations center on the ground, some 50 kilometers away in the center of Turku city. Here, a captain oversees autonomous operations and can take control of the ship if necessary.
During autonomous operation tests in the Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce timed nearly 400 hours of sea trials. The Rolls-Royce automatic locking system is among the technologies that have been successfully tested. This feature allows the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the dock and to dock automatically without human intervention. During sea trials, the collision avoidance solution has also been tested in various conditions over several hours of operation.
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 results of the previous Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project, funded by Business Finland.
Mikael Makinen, President of Roll-Royce Commercial Shipping, said: “Today marks a big step on the road to autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years: autonomous shipping will happen. The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to show the world how Ship Intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships.
“This is a very proud moment for all of us and it marks our most important milestone so far. Today’s test shows that autonomous shipping is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it. “
Mats Rosin, CEO of Finferries, added: “We are very proud that maritime history has been written on the Parainen-Nauvo route once again. First with our world renowned hybrid ship “Elektra” and now with “Falco” as the world’s first autonomous ferry. As a modern shipowner, our main objective in this cooperation has been to increase safety in maritime traffic, as it is beneficial both for the environment and for our passengers. But we are also excited about the way this demonstration opens the doors to new possibilities and safety in autonomous shipping of maritime cargo. “