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Rolls-Royce says oX bridge could lead to unmanned ships

oX bridge concept oX bridge concept Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has unveiled its vision for the future of maritime navigation with a new bridge concept known as the Future Operator Experience Concept or ‘oX’, which the company says could lead to autonomous, unmanned vessels.

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The project is the latest step towards what Rolls-Royce calls ‘ship intelligence’, as ships become increasingly reliant on large volumes of complex data that require a greater level of analysis to manage propulsion and navigation systems.

The company believes the system could become a reality by 2025, with unmanned ships at sea within the next twenty years.

“Many of the technology building blocks that will control the ships of the future are already available today, but there is still work to be done to develop marine solutions from them,” says Oskar Levander, vice president, innovation, at Rolls-Royce Marine.

“We are investing in ship intelligence, which will be a major driver of the next transition era of shipping. Much in the way that sail gave way to steam powered ships, and coal gave way to oil, we will see increasingly sophisticated ships, highly automated and perhaps even unmanned remote controlled, plying the seas within the next two decades.”

The oX bridge concept was developed in partnership with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It includes smart workstations, which automatically recognise individual crew members when they arrive on the bridge, adjusting to their own preferences.

Other features include bridge windows that serve as augmented reality displays, identifying potential hazards that might otherwise be difficult to see, such as sea ice or tug boats.

The oX concept uses 3D animation to demonstrate what Rolls-Royce believes can be achieved in the next decade, utilising digital techniques in an effort to improve safety and increase ship efficiency. Rolls-Royce already has control centres in Alesund, Norway, and Rauma, Finland, where ships from around the world can be remotely monitored in real time.

“We are entering a truly exciting period in the history of shipping, where technology, and in particular the smart use of Big Data is going to drive the next generation of ships,” says Mikael Makinen, president of Rolls-Royce Marine.

“Over the next ten to 20 years we believe ship intelligence is going to be the driving force that will determine the future of our industry, the type of ships at sea, and the competence levels required from tomorrow’s seafarers.”

“With the demands of environmental legislation and rising operating costs, ships are going to become more complex. Add to that the fact that skilled crews are already in short supply, then we see a distinct gap opening up between the complexity of ships and the competency of the people who will crew them. That will cause real problems for the industry, and we believe it is ship intelligence that will fill that gap.”

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