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Rolls-Royce and Finferries demonstrate world’s first fully autonomous ferry

Rolls-Royce and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finferries have demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland.

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

During the demonstration, the Falco, with 80 invited VIP guests aboard, conducted the voyage under fully autonomous control. The vessel detected objects utilizing 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.

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The Falco is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings in real time.

The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data, which is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating center on land, some 50 kilometers away in Turku city center. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.

During the autonomous operation tests in Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials. The Rolls-Royce Autodocking system is among the technologies that have been successfully tested. This feature enables the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention. During the sea trials, the collision avoidance solution has also been tested in various conditions for several hours of operation.

Earlier this year Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on a new research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), to continue implementing the findings from the earlier Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project, funded by Business Finland.

The Falco is a 53.8 meter 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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