VTT Develops Technology for Autonomous Ship Navigation Systems

Image Courtesy: VTT

Research and technology company VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has been developing safe steering for the remotely monitored and controlled ships of the future.

As explained, the new technology has been created for navigation systems and ship autopilots, which steer ships automatically.

Although the ships of the future will largely be controlled by artificial intelligence, they should be monitored and controlled on demand by land-based professionals. This trend sets new challenges also for autonomous ship navigation systems, which must be able to control ships in various situations, VTT said.

Such navigation systems require an autopilot, which is used to control a moving vessel, also during evasive maneuvers in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (sea-lane rules).

The Apilot autopilot under development by VTT has three modes – track, heading and slow joystick control.

In the track mode, Apilot steers the ship along a previously agreed route. If the ship detects another vessel, which must be avoided, the autopilot switches to heading mode. This enables Apilot to avoid the other vessel with a small change in the ship’s heading. Autopilot returns to track mode after the other vessel has been avoided, according to VTT.

In the joystick mode, control and propulsion equipment are adjusted to low speeds maneuverings. Apilot puts the ship into the desired operating mode, for example to maneuver sideways into a dock.

In all situations, the autopilot ensures that the ship remains within a set distance from the planned route. If the limits in question are exceeded, the autopilot gives a warning and remote control must be taken from the ship.

Human factors must be taken into account when designing the remote monitoring and control systems of vessels, VTT said. The company has studied the interaction between humans and technology in maritime transport and developed new concepts for the bridges and remote shore control centers of the autonomous ships of the future.

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