Rolls-Royce’s cargo ship of the future requires no onboard crew

While most of us associate the Rolls-Royce name with luxury cars and jet engines, it also has strong links to the marine sector where it designs vessels and integrates power systems.

Separate from the car business, Rolls-Royce Holdings has for some time been researching the idea of autonomous and remotely controlled cargo ships that it says could take to the high seas as early as 2020.

The futuristic-looking vessels can be monitored remotely by a “captain” stationed at a base anywhere around the world, Oskar Levander, the company’s VP of marine innovation, explained recently at the Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium in Amsterdam.

Adamant that autonomous shipping is just around the corner, Levander said, “This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist … we will see a remote-controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”

Tests of a simulated autonomous ship control system are already underway in Finland, and trials of sensor arrays in different operating and climatic conditions are also being carried out, the company said.

Despite its confident claim that the ships will be plying the world’s waters in the next four years, Rolls-Royce admits there’s still much work to be done, including navigating regulatory hurdles and careful examination of the safety and security implications of operating remotely operated ships.

The issue of piracy, of course, springs immediately to mind. Precisely how would the ships be protected against such attacks, and what safeguards will be in place to prevent a hacker gaining access to the ship’s systems and sailing it to a port of their choice? Rolls-Royce is working on it.

Remotely operated ships would mean the redesigned vessels could do away with the bridge and living quarters, offering maximum space to cargo. Of course, this doesn’t sound like good news at all for ship workers, though it’s likely to be many years before a large portion of the world’s cargo vessels is sailing without crews.

Rolls, which has been working on this kind of vessel for a number of years, says the remotely-operated ships would be faster, more efficient, and cheaper to operate than current ships doing the same job. The first fully autonomous or remotely controlled cargo ship is expected to set sail on the Baltic Sea, plying the waters between countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, Poland, and Russia.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Cars

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.
Cars

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.