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Rolls-Royce and VTT Technical Research Centre partner to develop remote and autonomous ships

Rolls-Royce and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd have formed a strategic partnership to design, to test and to validate the first generation of remote and autonomous ships. The new partnership will combine and integrate the two companies’ unique expertise to make such vessels a commercial reality. (Earlier post.)

Rolls-Royce is pioneering the development of remote-controlled and autonomous ships and believes a remote-controlled ship will be in commercial use by the end of the decade. The company is applying technology, skills and experience from across its businesses to this development.

VTT has deep knowledge of ship simulation and extensive expertise in the development and management of safety-critical and complex systems in demanding environments such as nuclear safety. VTT combines physical tests such as model and tank testing, with digital technologies, such as data analytics and computer visualisation.

VTT will also use field research to incorporate human factors into safe ship design. As a result of working with the Finnish telecommunications sector, VTT has extensive experience of working with 5G mobile phone technology and wi-fi mesh networks. VTT has the first 5G test network in Finland.

Working with VTT will allow Rolls-Royce to assess the performance of remote and autonomous designs through the use of both traditional model tank tests and digital simulation, allowing the company to develop functional, safe and reliable prototypes.

Remotely operated ships are a key development project for Rolls-Royce Marine, and VTT is a reliable and innovative partner for the development of a smart ship concept. This collaboration is a natural continuation of the earlier User Experience for Complex systems (UXUS) project, where we developed totally new bridge and remote control systems for shipping.

—Karno Tenovuo, Rolls-Royce, Vice President Ship Intelligence

Rolls-Royce has experience in secure data analytics across civil aerospace, defence, nuclear power and marine; coupled with its ship intelligence capabilities, design, propulsion and machinery expertise, this base means it is ideally placed to take the lead in defining the future of shipping, in collaboration with industry, academia and Government.

Rolls-Royce is leading the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA). Funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), AAWA brings together universities, ship designers, equipment manufacturers, and classification societies to explore the economic, social, legal, regulatory and technological factors which need to be addressed to make autonomous ships a reality.

It combines the expertise of some of Finland’s top academic researchers from Tampere University of Technology; VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd; Åbo Akademi University; Aalto University; the University of Turku; and leading members of the maritime cluster including Rolls-Royce, NAPA, Deltamarin, DNV GL and Inmarsat.

Rolls-Royce is also a member of the Norwegian Forum for Autonomous Ships (NFAS) which has the backing of the Norwegian Maritime Administration, The Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Federation of Norwegian Industries and MARINTEK.

Its objectives are to strengthen the cooperation between users, researchers, authorities and others that are interested in autonomous ships and their use; contribute to the development of common Norwegian strategies for development and use of autonomous ships and co-operate with other international and national bodies interested in autonomous shipping.

Rolls-Royce is also a founding member of the Finnish ecosystem for autonomous marine transport (DIMECC). Supported by the Finnish Marine Industries Association, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation) and leading companies including Rolls-Royce, Cargotec, Ericsson, Meyer Turku, Tieto, and Wärtsilä, it aims to create the world’s first autonomous marine transport system in the Baltic Sea.


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The steering of ships should be made “driverless” or pilot free ASAP. It is very doable and not difficult either. However, commercial cargo ships are different than cars in one important way. Stuff breaks down on large ships every day that need to be repaired or the ship will end up not being able to sail safely. Therefore unmanned ships will not happen. A tech team needs to stay on board and fix broken things and judge when larger repair should be made when in harbor. In terms of salary saved there will not be important saving from making driverless ships but there could be large saving on fuel consumption and better satellite internet connections could improve the logistics of knowing where exactly each ship is and when they can be expected to arrive at their destination.

Again Musk has applied for permission to launch a global network of several thousands of satellites using Space X rockets in order to create a super powerful internet all over the planet to be used by planes, ships and cars. With reusable rockets it will be an economic competitor to ground based internet services in many circumstances such as thinly populated areas. It could have dramatic consequences for ships ability to communicate with experts on land, the crews’ entertainment options etc.


soon afterwards, they'll be attacked by Somalian robots


They will have automatic weapons systems.

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