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Finnish ferry completes autonomous voyage with 80 passengers

Rolls-Royce and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finferries have completed a successful demonstration of what they claim is the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in an archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The car ferry Falco used a combination of technologies to successfully 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 guests on board, conducted the voyage under fully autonomous control. The vessel detected objects utilising sensor fusion and artificial intelligence systems and conducted its own collision avoidance manoeuvres.

The Falco also demonstrated automatic berthing with a recently developed autonomous navigation system, with all actions performed without any human intervention from the crew. The Rolls-Royce Autodocking system allowed the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking.

The situational awareness picture relied upon by the ferry is created by fusing various sources of sensor data, which are also relayed to Finferries’ remote operating centre on land some 50 kilometres away in Turku city centre. From there a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.

Rolls-Royce says it has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials during autonomous operation tests in Turku archipelago.

“We are very proud that maritime history has been made on the Parainen-Nauvo-route once again – first with our world-renowned hybrid vessel Elektra and now Falco as the world’s first autonomous ferry,” said Mats Rosin, Finferries’ CEO.

“As a modern shipowner our main goal in this cooperation has been on increasing safety in marine traffic as this is beneficial for both the environment and our passengers. But we are also equally excited about how this demonstration opens the door to the new possibilities of autonomous shipping and safety.”

These trials mark the latest progress in a research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), which Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on earlier in 2018 to continue implementing the findings from the earlier Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project funded by Business Finland.                                                                                                                             

“(This trial) marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen,” said Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, president – commercial marine.

“The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to showcase to the world how ship intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships.”

“This is a very proud moment for all of us and marks our most significant milestone so far. (This) demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it.”{/mprestriction}

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