Canadian Manufacturing

Rolls-Royce moving ahead full steam with autonomous shipping projects

The engine company's marine division recently received a research grant from an innovation agency for a remote shipping development project in Finland, one of several projects Rolls-Royce is undertaking across the globe



Rolls-Royce is using AI technology and advanced land-based control centres to make autonomous and remotely-controlled ships a reality. PHOTO: Rolls-Royce

LONDON—Digital technology is set to transform the shipping industry, and Rolls-Royce is striving to lead this revolution by developing autonomous shipping capabilities.

The company is attempting to create the capability and supply the technology and components required to make autonomous and remotely-controlled ships a possibility.

On Mar. 8, the latest stage of this program got underway, with the announcement, in Finland, of a significant research grant by Tekes—the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation.

The funding will enable Rolls-Royce to invest further in a research and development centre in Turku, Finland. The company plans to carry out projects there focused on the development of land-based control centres, and the use of artificial intelligence in remote and autonomous shipping operations.

In Norway, the company is currently investing in a range of R&D projects, which will include a new Marine Fleet Management Centre in Aalesund, to allow remote monitoring, data analysis and optimization of onboard ship equipment.

The centre will allow Rolls-Royce to extend its ‘Power by the Hour’ concept. ‘Power by the Hour’ is a new service to be delivered by the company’s Marine division, which uses data analytics to monitor, plan and perform maintenance and repairs on onboard ship equipment.

Rolls-Royce already has experience using data analytics in civil aerospace, defence, nuclear power and other marine applications.

The company is looking to secure UK£200 million in investments, for projects in Finland, Norway, Singapore and the U.K.

Rolls-Royce’s Marine division has strategic partnerships with the VTT Technical Research Centre and Tampere University of Technology in Finland, the Norwegian University of Technology and Science, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Various SMEs and start-ups are also involved in the company’s shipping projects.

“Digitalisation will transform the shipping industry in the years ahead, and the time is now right to set out how we are going to make this happen. Over the coming years we need to invest globally to develop the required capabilities and to establish a range of market-ready products and systems to take advantage of what is a significant global market opportunity,” said Mikael Mäkinen, president of Rolls-Royce.

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