Rolls-Royce and Finnish state-owned ferry operator Finnferries have demonstrated what is claimed to be the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of Turku
The 53.8m long, double-ended car ferry FALCO used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence 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 VIP guests aboard, conducted the voyage under fully autonomous control. The vessel detected objects utilising sensor fusion and artificial intelligence and conducted collision avoidance. It also demonstrated automatic berthing with a recently developed autonomous navigation system. All this was achieved without any human intervention from the crew.
The FALCO is equipped with a range of advanced sensors, so it can build a detailed picture of its surroundings, in real-time and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye, says Rolls-Royce.
The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data and it is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating centre on land, some 50 kms away in Turku city centre. Here, a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary.
Rolls-Royce has so far clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials. Its Autodocking system is among the technologies that have been successfully tested. This feature enables the vessel to automatically alter course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention. During the sea trials, the collision avoidance solution has also been tested in various conditions for several hours of operation.
Earlier this year Rolls-Royce and Finferries began collaborating on a new research project called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation), to continue implementing the findings from the earlier Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) research project, funded by Business Finland.
FALCO, which entered service with Finferries in 1993, is also equipped with twin azimuth thrusters from Rolls-Royce.