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October 18, 2018updated 18 Jul 2022 6:39am

Rolls Royce and Intel Partner on Autonomous Ships

System captures 1TB per day; uses data from LIDAR, radar, thermal and HD cameras, satellite data, and weather forecasts

By jonathan chadwick

Rolls Royce and Intel are combining their technologies to design autonomous shipping systems, which they hope will improve the efficiency of maritime voyages and drive down insurance costs.

The two companies are working together on the technology, which has already been trialled on a 165-metre passenger ferry in Japan.

The system uses Intel’s Xeon Scalabale processors and NAND SSDs and Rolls Royce’s Intelligence Awareness system, which was introduced earlier this year.

The Rolls Royce system processes data from LIDAR, radar, thermal and HD cameras, satellite data, and weather forecasts to help ships detect and navigate objects, and is particularly suited for night trips.

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It features four UI modes: virtual reality, both in 2D and 3D, augmented reality, and “precision mode”.

AR mode augments fellow vessels with pop-up info on a live video feed, while on the VR modes, sensor data is displayed as part of a wider map graphic.

Precision mode provides distances between autonomous ships and their surroundings, suited for docking, narrow routes, or congested waterways.

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The system was piloted on the commercial Mitsui O.S.K-operated Sunflower ferry, for sailings between Kobe and Oita, Japan.

It’s Dangerous At Sea

Intel said that dangerous ocean conditions have resulted in 1,129 shipping losses over the last 10 years.

By combining their respective technologies, the companies hope to enable better human decision-making, safer, more efficient shipping, and even lower insurance premiums for vessels.

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Roll-out will turn ships into “floating datacentres” with commercial operators able to extract valuable journey data, the two said.

Kevin Daffet, Rolls Royce director of engineering & technology and ship intelligence, said: “This collaboration can help us to support ship owners in the automation of their navigation and operations, reducing the opportunity for human error and allowing crews to focus on more valuable tasks.

autonomous ships

“Simply said, this project would not be possible without the lead-edge technology Intel brings to the table. Together, we’ll blend the best of the best, Intel and Rolls Royce, to change the world of shipping.”

Their intelligence shipping solutions will have datacentre, AI, and edge computing capabilities to enable navigation, obstacle detection, and communications.

Intel’s Field Programmable Gate Array tech will solve design challenges associated with shipping intelligence, allowing edge operations for obstacle detection and navigation; while its Scalable Processors for high-performance computing will be used for modelling of ship functions

Optane SSD 3D NAND for storage will extract data generated through real-time analysis and systems modelling – acting as the ship’s “black box”. Once docked, data stored on the black box will be used for training and analysis.

Intel said data captured on each vessel will reach up to 1TB per day or 30-40TB over a month-long voyage.

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