Drone Ships At Sea Could Be Coming In The Future
March 5, 2014

Rolls-Royce Looks Into Drone Cargo Ships

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Rolls-Royce is reportedly in the process of designing drone ships that would be cheaper and less polluting than the current $375 billion industry is at the moment.

The company’s Blue Ocean development team says it envisions a future with more efficient ships, which could lower operating costs. The company has created a virtual-reality prototype that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel’s bridge. The manufacturer believes one day captains will use this virtual reality simulator to drive hundreds of crewless ships.

“Sometimes what was unthinkable yesterday is tomorrow’s reality. So now it is time to consider a roadmap to unmanned vessels of various types. Steps have already been taken, mainly in the naval are,” Rolls-Royce said in a statement.

The company said that during this transition, engine and equipment monitoring will be moved to an offshore section. Some vessels are already equipped with cameras that can see at night and through fog and snow.

“When ‘fleet optimization’ is considered, the advantages compound. The same person can monitor and steer many ships,” Rolls-Royce said. “As conditions ashore are often preferred, it will also help retain qualified and competent crew, and is safer.”

The manufacturer pointed out that many of the facilities and systems on board a ship are only there to ensure the crew is kept fed and comfortable during the journey. Eliminating the crew from the vessel means these areas will be reduced as well, bringing down the cost of the ship in terms of building the vessel. Shrinking these facilities also means the ship could have more room to load up more cargo, making it an even more efficient trip across the ocean.

“Eliminate or reduce the need for people, and vessels could be radically simplified. Attitudes and ways of working will need to change, but safe operation is possible, particularly for vessels running between two or three fixed points,” the company said.

The approach to shipping will be influenced by holistic ship design, and a future where ships are unpiloted will simplify the process as well as usher in a new era of shipping cargo.

“In the future, we must not think of a ship as a number of separate processes or systems, but as a whole where all aspects affect the other. Only by thinking the unthinkable can we truly affect costs,” Rolls-Royce said.