Rolls-Royce reveals its vision for future shore control centre for unmanned ships

Photo credit - Rolls Royce. This is now a future control crew for unmanned ships might operate
Photo credit – Rolls Royce. This is now a future control crew for unmanned ships might operate

Rolls-Royce has unveiled its vision of the land-based control centres that they believe will remotely monitor and control the unmanned ships of the future. What this vision holds for the future of the marine surveying profession is rather less clear at this point. One thing, however, is for sure. The world of autonomous cars, lorries, ships and presumably planes too is fast approaching and will soon be an accepted every day part of our lives.

In a six minute film, (see below), that some will feel is more akin to the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise rather and has no place in the world of shipping, Rolls-Royce presents a vision of the future in which a small crew of 7 to 14 people monitor and control the operation of a fleet of vessels across the world. The crew uses interactive smart screens, voice recognition systems, holograms and surveillance drones to monitor what is happening both on board and around the ship.

Iiro Lindborg, General Manager, Remote & Autonomous Operations, Ship Intelligence, Rolls-Royce, said: “We’re living in an ever-changing world where unmanned and remote-controlled transportation systems will become a common feature of human life. They offer unprecedented flexibility and operational efficiency. Our research aims to understand the human factors involved in monitoring and operating ships remotely. It identifies ways crews ashore can use tools to get a realistic feel for what is happening at sea.”
The film marks the final stage of research that will inform the design and construction of a project demonstrator before the end of this decade. An effective remote operations centre is essential to the company’s plans to develop autonomous and remote controlled vessels.

Photo credit - Rolls Royce
Photo credit – Rolls Royce

Eija Kaasinen, Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd said: “The autonomous ship does not mean removing human beings entirely from the picture, as is sometimes stated. Unmanned ships need to be monitored and controlled and this will require entirely new kinds of work roles, tasks, tools and environments. The future shore control centre concept for unmanned ships has been designed by emphasising the user experience of the human operators. By focusing on the operators’ point of view, it is possible to introduce meaningful, pleasurable and engaging new roles for the ships’ shore control centre professionals.”

The research was undertaken by VTT and University of Tampere research centre TAUCHI (Tampere Unit for Computer Human Interaction) in collaboration with Rolls-Royce. It explored the lessons learned from other industries where remote operation is commonplace, such as aviation, energy, defence, and space exploration.

It uses the innovative InnoLeap approach, a VTT and Rolls-Royce-developed initiative for concept design and presenting academic studies in a graphic format. The InnoLeap approach is based on trend and user studies, co-innovation, scenario stories and visualizations.

The video is the latest in a series of films developed to present Rolls-Royce’s vision of future shipping known as the ‘oX’ operator experience concept and introduced in 2014. Previous studies have looked at the user experience of future command bridges on Platform Supply Vessels, container ships and tugs.

Photo credit - Rolls Royce
Photo credit – Rolls Royce

New digital opportunities will shape the world of work in various industries and VTT’s research helps create the conditions needed for digitalisation to promote sustainable development, employment and well-being in society. Mikael Wahlström, Senior Scientist at VTT said: “We need to understand current work by field studies. This allows the creation of innovations that reflect the positive aspects of existing job practices, which are not always obvious. If, for example, a mechanic can assess the engine status by hearing the engine noise, it should be beneficial to be able to do the same at a remote control centre.”

On 5 April in Helsinki Rolls-Royce will reveal separate research findings, which it believes will set the direction for the development of remote and autonomous shipping. Remote and unmanned ships are one of three elements of the company’s Ship Intelligence strategy, a portfolio of innovative products and services – comprising health management solutions, optimisation and decision support, and remote and autonomous operations – which will enable customers to transform their operations by harnessing the power of big data.

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