Rolls-Royce: Rolls-Royce future shore control centre.

AI Captain!

Maritime Robotics to Revolutionise Shipping (And Piracy)

March 28, 2017, Tapio Mäkelä

Drones and self-driving cars may get the most headlines, but autonomous cargo ships and big data may revolutionize how goods get transported around the worlds. AI Captains, Artificial Intelligence based navigation software can drive ships without staff in the future. They may generate new wave of piracy, or be rather difficult to take over.

Rolls-Royce, who recently announced a new marine robotics research centre to be opened in Turku, Finland, sees that robot ships will plough the seas already in 2020. Rather than being fully autonomous, robot ship fleet will be monitored via land-based control centres with crews of 7 to 14 people.

Marine robotics, or `Ship Intelligence´, does not only involve AI that helps in navigation, but also a myriad of ways how data is collected during a robo-ship voyage. Remote crews, Rolls-Royce sees, will use surveillance drones on and around the ship.

Advanced AI at seas could also provide optimized routes and driving speeds by combining weather and sea current data. If most marine traffic will produce data beyond the current ship’s position, the big data that results could be the next revolution in shipping business since the invention of containers.

Future Piracy at seas would no longer have human hostages, but rather the cargo and sometimes communications to the ship itself. Spoofing a ship would mean feeding it false GPS information and thus leading it astray. Marine and other traffic communications will become a growing field of cyber security.


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