) and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finferries (www.finferries.fi
) have successfully demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku.
The car ferry Falco used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to navigate autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo, whereas the return journey was conducted under remote control.
During the demonstration, the Falco detected objects using ‘sensor fusion’ and artificial intelligence — and avoided them. It also demonstrated automatic docking with a recently developed autonomous navigation system.
All this was achieved without any intervention from the crew. The Falco is equipped with advanced sensors that allow it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings, in real time and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye.
The situational-awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data, which is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating centre some 50km away — in Turku city centre. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations and can take control of the vessel, if necessary.
During the autonomous operation tests in Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400hr of sea trials, which included testing the company’s ‘autodocking’ system; this allows the vessel to automatically alter course and speed whenapproaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention.
Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce’s president (commercial marine), said: “Today marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and re-affirms exactly what we have been saying for several years — that autono- mous shipping will happen.
"This 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.
“Today’s demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it.”
The Falco is a 53.8m-long double-ended car ferry, which entered service with Finferries in 1993.
It is equipped with twin azimuth thrusters from Rolls-Royce.