If you live in Topeka, Kansas, or Whitefish, Montana, you may not know what a ferry is. But if you live in any part of the Scandinavian peninsular with its crenelated coastline, ferries are as important to getting from where you are to where you want to go as roads and bridges. Not every trip they make is on sunny days with unlimited visibility. Often storms and poor visibility make their journeys fraught with danger. Modern technology can help them complete their journeys safely and on time.
Rolls-Royce and Finferries — the state owned ferry line of Finland — have teamed up for a successful demonstration of the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland. The 178-foot long double-ended ferry Falco took a group of 8o dignitaries for a demonstration run of the new autonomous system
The Falco used a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies to successfully navigate autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo in the southwestern part of the country. It is equipped with a range of advanced sensors which allows it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings in real time and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye according to a Rolls Royce press release. The vessel was able to avoid potential collisions along the route using sensor fusion and artificial intelligence.
The Falco is also equipped with an autonomous docking system that can reduce speed and guide the vessel to a safe and secure berth once it arrives at its destination. One additional advantage of the autonomous hardware and systems is that the vessel can be controlled remotely by a “virtual captain” at the Finferries operation center in the city of Turku, 50 kilometers away. The Falco made its way back to its point of origin by remote control.
Mikael Makinen, president of Rolls-Royce’s commercial marine division said in a statement, “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…..Today’s demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it.”
Mats Rosin, Finferries’ CEO, added, “We are very proud that maritime history has been made on the Parainen-Nauvo-route once again…..As a modern ship-owner, our main goal in this cooperation 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.”