The fast-developing world of autonomous shipping took one step closer to reality today when 80 guests and journalist boarded Finferries Falco. Using Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies Falco sailed into the busy waters of the Turku archipelago and detected and manoeuvred autonomously around several obstacles.
On the return leg of the Parainen-Nauvo route, the ferry was operated entirely under remote control by a captain in an office building in the centre of Turku.
The ferry is operated by Finnish state-owned Finferries, which has been a partner in developing autonomous shipping technologies produced by Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence along with its other partners Svitzer, Intel, ESA, Inmarsat, AXA, Google and Bosch.
These technologies have come together in a range of sensors attached to Falco, which give the vessel a 3D picture of its surroundings.
During today’s trial, the vessel undocked itself using Rolls-Royce’s autodocking system. Using a suite of technologies under the research project Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation (SVAN), Falco used these systems to avoid a series of vessels in its path.
Rolls-Royce president – commercial marine Mikael Mäkinen said “Today 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. 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. Today’s demonstration proves the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it.”
Finferries’ chief executive Mats Rosin added “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. As a modern shipowner our main goal in this co-operation 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.”
On the return trip, Falco was remotely operated by the Finferries Remote Operation Centre in the centre of Turku by Capt Tuumas Mikkola, who is qualified to sail Electra and Falco. He successfully steered Falco by remote control to the docking point, where the vessel used the automatic docking system to berth.
Speaking about the experience Capt Mikkola said that at first the lack of winds and waves was a little strange, but after 400 km of trials, he has become used to the idea. After the trial period, he will return to sailing Electra in real life, but said “We are not trying to replace peoples’ jobs with this technology, but to make their task more pleasant. For me, it’s been nice to go home at 5 o’clock like everyone else.”