Humans are land animals. We've sailed the seas for centuries, crossing lakes and oceans and eventually the globe, but we as a species don't need to be out on the water. Sailing persists in part because the sea is an efficient way to transport heavy goods long distances, but cargo ships in the future likely won't need human crews. Rolls Royce, best known for cars but in the general business of engines, thinks autonomous shipping is the way of the future. Today, the company released a paper on “Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications”
From Rolls Royce:
Speaking at the [Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium 2016 in Amsterdam] Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce, Vice President of Innovation – Marine, said: “This is happening. It's not if, it's when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist. The AAWA project is testing sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions in Finland and has created a simulated autonomous ship control system which allows the behaviour of the complete communication system to be explored. We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”
What might that look like? Crewless ships, communicating by satellite, would travel their normal routes. If a problem arose, terrestrial humans at a control site could activate drones to fly over and see what's wrong.
Or troubleshoot the systems remotely, instead.
Watch a concept video on the control center below, and read the white paper here: