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World’s first autonomous ferry

  • By Neil Martin
  • News

Rolls-Royce and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finferries have demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry.

The demonstration took place in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland.

The car ferry Falco used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to successfully navigate autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo. The return journey was conducted under remote control.

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. All this was achieved without any human intervention from the crew.

The Falco is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows 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 and it is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating centre on land, some 50 kilometres away in Turku city centre. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.

Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Commercial Marine, said: “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.

“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, Finferries’ CEO, added: “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.”

The Falco is a 53.8 metre double-ended car ferry, which entered service with Finferries in 1993. It is equipped with twin azimuth thrusters from Rolls-Royce.

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