Marine

Rolls-Royce sets sail for robotic shipping with virtual bridge concept

Rolls-Royce sets sail for robo...
Rolls-Royce oX provides collision warnings and data
Rolls-Royce oX provides collision warnings and data
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Rolls-Royce oX aiding foul weather piloting
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Rolls-Royce oX aiding foul weather piloting
Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept
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Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept
Rolls-Royce oX can make a ship "invisible"
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Rolls-Royce oX can make a ship "invisible"
Rolls-Royce oX warns of surface and subsurface navigation hazards
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Rolls-Royce oX warns of surface and subsurface navigation hazards
Rolls-Royce oX allows ships to be controlled remotely
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Rolls-Royce oX allows ships to be controlled remotely
Rolls-Royce oX aiding platform support
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Rolls-Royce oX aiding platform support
Rolls-Royce oX controlling cargo operations
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Rolls-Royce oX controlling cargo operations
Rolls-Royce oX is designed to be ergonomic
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Rolls-Royce oX is designed to be ergonomic
Rolls-Royce oX with scale
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Rolls-Royce oX with scale
Rolls-Royce oX work station showing configuration movements
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Rolls-Royce oX work station showing configuration movements
Robotic ships in transit
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Robotic ships in transit
Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier
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Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier
Rolls-Royce oX aiding piloting
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Rolls-Royce oX aiding piloting
The oX system
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The oX system
Stril Luna is the first vessel with the Virtual Bridge technology
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Stril Luna is the first vessel with the Virtual Bridge technology
Stril Luna
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Stril Luna
Rolls-Royce oX provides captains with detailed operations plans
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Rolls-Royce oX provides captains with detailed operations plans
Rolls-Royce oX platform operations plan
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Rolls-Royce oX platform operations plan
Bridge of the Stril Luna
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Bridge of the Stril Luna
Stril Luna bridge control
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Stril Luna bridge control
Stril Luna bridge control
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Stril Luna bridge control
Rolls-Royce oX indicating platform docking area
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Rolls-Royce oX indicating platform docking area
Rolls-Royce oX compensating for thruster malfunction
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Rolls-Royce oX compensating for thruster malfunction
Rolls-Royce oX adjusts itself to light conditions
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Rolls-Royce oX adjusts itself to light conditions
Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept with seating
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Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept with seating
Virtual bridge
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Virtual bridge
Rolls-Royce oX station keeping at platform
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Rolls-Royce oX station keeping at platform
Rolls-Royce oX in operations mode
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Rolls-Royce oX in operations mode
Rolls-Royce oX provides collision warnings and data
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Rolls-Royce oX provides collision warnings and data
Rolls-Royce oX work station
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Rolls-Royce oX work station
The Rolls-Royce oX provides augmented reality to aid operations
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The Rolls-Royce oX provides augmented reality to aid operations
Rolls-Royce oX can hand off controls
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Rolls-Royce oX can hand off controls
The Rolls-Royce oX recognizes crew members and configures itself automatically
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The Rolls-Royce oX recognizes crew members and configures itself automatically
The Rolls-Royce oX provides information on hazards, such as ice floes
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The Rolls-Royce oX provides information on hazards, such as ice floes
Rolls-Royce oX can automatically reduce readouts to avoid distraction during critical operations
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Rolls-Royce oX can automatically reduce readouts to avoid distraction during critical operations
Rolls-Royce oX allows direct communications between captains and deckhands; even on other ships
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Rolls-Royce oX allows direct communications between captains and deckhands; even on other ships
Rolls-Royce oX aft window displays
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Rolls-Royce oX aft window displays
Rolls-Royce oX work station degrees of movement
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Rolls-Royce oX work station degrees of movement
Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier
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Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier
Artist's concept of a robotic LNG carrier
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Artist's concept of a robotic LNG carrier
Stril Luna is a support vessel
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Stril Luna is a support vessel
Rolls-Royce oX showing towed ship rudder setting
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Rolls-Royce oX showing towed ship rudder setting
Rolls-Royce oX adjusting itself for aft window operations
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Rolls-Royce oX adjusting itself for aft window operations
Rolls-Royce oX aft window view without readouts
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Rolls-Royce oX aft window view without readouts
Deck view with augmentation
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Deck view with augmentation
Rolls-Royce oX work station
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Rolls-Royce oX work station
Rolls-Royce oX can detect equipment malfunctions
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Rolls-Royce oX can detect equipment malfunctions
Stril Luna uses technology that could one day lead to autonomous ships
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Stril Luna uses technology that could one day lead to autonomous ships
Bridge of the Stril Luna
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Bridge of the Stril Luna
Rolls-Royce oX showing safe zones
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Rolls-Royce oX showing safe zones
Rolls-Royce oX controlling platform safety area navigation
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Rolls-Royce oX controlling platform safety area navigation
Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept degrees of movement
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Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept degrees of movement
Deck view with augmented visibility
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Deck view with augmented visibility
Artist's concept of robotic container ship
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Artist's concept of robotic container ship
Rolls-Royce oX turns ships into components in a digital network
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Rolls-Royce oX turns ships into components in a digital network
Ship Intelligence could lead to autonomous ships
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Ship Intelligence could lead to autonomous ships
Artist's concept of a robotic bulk cargo ship
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Artist's concept of a robotic bulk cargo ship
View gallery - 57 images

Rolls-Royce, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Aalto University are expanding on their ideas for a virtual bridge that could soon lead to a future where the line between manned and robotic ships becomes completely blurred. Combining automated ship systems and constant high-data level communications, it's part of what Rolls-Royce see as the "next major transition for the shipping industry."

Today, there's more shipping than ever. Ships are becoming more complex, requiring large amounts of data streaming within and without the hull, regulations are growing by the day, fuel costs increase, and environmental pressures become more acute. At the same time, skilled crews willing to spend weeks at sea are becoming harder to find. According to Rolls-Royce, this, combined with the requirements of the latest developments in propulsion, navigation, and other on-board systems, will require complex interactive data and control systems that could one day lead to autonomous ships that don't require crews

The concept, Ship Intelligence, is based on a new bridge called the Future Operator Experience Concept or "oX." This turns bridge positions into smart work stations and the bridge itself into an augmented reality control center. This week, Rolls-Royce unveiled its latest version of the concept, which it says could become a reality in ten years.

Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept with seating
Rolls-Royce oX cargo bridge concept with seating

The difference between the oX and a bridge of today is more than the science fictiony consoles and futuristic chairs. This is obvious the moment one of the crew walks on the bridge, where sensors identify them, call up their individual duties and specifications, and reconfigure their stations accordingly to suit the the task at hand and the ergonomics of the user.

The windows of the bridge are actually augmented reality displays that overlay information and enhance visibility of the ship's surroundings by means of an array of cameras and other sensors. This display can show navigation tracks and hazards, provide warnings and data about other ships in the area, and highlight ice, shoals, and other things that might not otherwise be visible – including the ability to make the ship "invisible" and eliminate blind spots or show up deckhands who might otherwise be hidden behind equipment.

Based on a study of user experiences and preferences, the oX system is designed to be used on a wide array of ships, from giant cargo container ships to platform support vessels. According to Rolls-Royce, oX is more than a glorified autopilot or data display device. It's designed to operate in concert with fleets of vessels and other facilities coordinating with shore control centers and exchanging massive amounts of data.

Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier
Artist's concept of robotic LNG carrier

For example, in platform support operations, oX allows the shore control center to provide a detailed operations plan for the captain, oversees the vessel's approach to the platform, coordinates and maintains a robotic ship on standby in the event of trouble, compensates for equipment malfunctions, and can even autonomously move cargo containers from the loading area on deck to their stowage points. At any point, control of operations can shift between the captain, the autonomous system, and the control center as required.

Rolls-Royce sees oX and similar systems as key technologies that will determine the shape of future ships as they become more automated, connected, and possibly autonomous over the next two decades. Properly used, the company regards these as a way of reducing costs, making ships more energy efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly.

"With the demands of environmental legislation and rising operating costs, ships are going to become more complex" says Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President - Marine. "Add to that the fact that skilled crews are already in short supply, then we see a distinct gap opening up between the complexity of ships and the competency of the people who will crew them. That will cause real problems for the industry, and we believe it is Ship Intelligence, that will fill that gap."

Bridge of the Stril Luna
Bridge of the Stril Luna

Part of the oX technology can be found in Rolls-Royce's Unified bridge, which was installed on the vessel Stril Luna to provide an ergonomic bridge environment while coordinating onboard equipment operations. In addition, Rolls-Royce says that remote monitoring is already used by the company with control centers in Alesund, Norway, and Rauma, Finland to monitor onboard equipment, such as engines and cargo handling, as well as ships around the world in real time.

In addition to its new version of the oX, Rolls-Royce also released a series of new images of possible robotic ships of the future, including a natural gas carrier that has a curved whaleback without a hint of a deck, a cargo container ship that's all cargo and no superstructure, and a bulk carrier with a flat deck given over entirely to loading hatches.

"Many of the technology building blocks that will control the ships of the future are already available today, but there is still work to be done to develop marine solutions from them," says Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce, Vice President - Innovation - Marine. "We are investing in ship intelligence, which will be a major driver of the next transition era of shipping. Much in the way that sail gave way to steam powered ships, and coal gave way to oil, we will see increasingly sophisticated ships, highly automated and perhaps even unmanned remote controlled, plying the seas within the next two decades."

The video below outlines the oX system for platform operations.

Source: Rolls-Royce

View gallery - 57 images
3 comments
Mel Tisdale
If this system is using GPS, or one its rivals, then perhaps another business opportunity that exists for RR (aero engines) is the development of a very small, highly accurate inertial navigation system as a backup (and warning of a problem) if the GPS signal gets hijacked or jammed. Seeing as GPS is increasingly being relied upon for ship navigation today, there is already a sizeable market just waiting for such a product to become available. Not only that, it would 'put a foot in the door' as the oX system gets rolled out in the future. Even more tempting, perhaps, is the opportunity to provide backup for automotive use of GPS based driving aids, such as lane adherence, etc. - hence the "very small" requirement, above. A spoofed GPS signal could wreak havoc in such applications if the driver is unaware, in fog, say, that they are drifting into oncoming traffic. As for autonomous cars, well . . . !
Koolski
Seems like this would be vulnerable to pirates. Also "smart" systems that enable/disable functions on the bridge based on recognition would be vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances. Then the unauthorized crew member who has to deal with the unforeseen circumstances, has to overcome the computer before he/she can overcome the circumstances. I much prefer the idea of intelligent systems helping a person make the correct decision. People have experience and judgement on their side.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Another system to make more people obsolete, and thus without work. What good it automation if nobody can afford to buy the products it produces because they do not have jobs?