Royal IHC and Maritime Research Institute Netherlands have completed dynamic positioning (DP) tests on a service operation vessel that could lead to a vessel with the ability to operate autonomously being introduced
The tests on the company’s T60-18 service operation vessel (SOV) formed part of the development of the autonomous SOV concept. They took place at Marin’s basin in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
For the project, which was part-funded by a subsidy from TKI Wind Op Zee, IHC developed technology that will allow an SOV to navigate autonomously through an offshore windfarm and provide access to turbines. The operation is executed by the vessel’s software while under supervision of the ship’s personnel.
“The software enables the operator to benefit from having an integrated solution that provides enhanced workability,” said IHC. The concept brings together and integrates the SOV’s dynamic positioning system and motion-compensated gangway and takes into account vessel movement.
“Autonomous operation is one of the unique features of IHC’s SOV,” said IHC. The company said the concept has been in development for several years, based on extensive input from industry stakeholders.
The DP assessment was the final test in a number of model tests for the vessel that will provide input for ship models in IHC’s autonomous SOV simulator.
The tests also proved the motion characteristics and position-keeping capabilities of the SOV, and of IHC’s DP system.
On completion of the project in December 2020 a simulator will enter operation that replicates all of the functional systems of the autonomous vessel. The simulator will then be used to demonstrate the feasibility of the system and benchmark efficiencies.
“By improving safety, increasing workability and reducing operating costs, it is expected that the autonomous SOV will lead to a significant reduction in service and maintenance costs for offshore windfarms,” the company said.
The next phase of the project will focus on further developing the autonomous navigation and control functionality.
IHC product manager Jeroen Hollebrands said, “We tested the vessel’s seakeeping behaviour and position-keeping in challenging environmental conditions similar to those in the central North Sea, with 3 m to 3.5 m significant wave heights.
“The tests have given us great insight into the performance of the vessel and DP system and provide use with confidence to build SOVs capable of operating in these conditions.
“Autonomous operation is one of the unique features of our SOV, which has been in development for several years. The autonomous SOV simulator will enable us to demonstrate the vessel ‘in action’ to industry stakeholders. We can then take the next steps towards the development of a prototype of an autonomous SOV.”
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