The capacity for Intelligent Awareness and machine learning technologies to significantly improve navigational safety has been verified by Rolls-Royce and Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL), following the success of a pilot project aboard a 165m passenger ferry, Sunflower Gold.
Results from sea trials on the vessel, which operates night-time sailings between Kobe and Oita, Japan, found that the navigating officers were able to visually detect objects that would otherwise have been cloaked by the blackness of night.
The vessel navigates the Akashi Kaikyo, Bisan Seto and Kurushima Straits, some of the most challenging routes in the world. However, operations are more difficult during night-time crossings when these routes become heavily congested with fishing nets and small to mid-sized fishing vessels.
Iiro Lindborg, Rolls-Royce, General Manager Remote & Autonomous Solutions, said: “During the trials the Intelligent Awareness system was able to detect all potential navigational obstacles, allowing the crew to mitigate against any safety risks during night crossings.”
Rolls-Royce installed an array of Intelligent Awareness sensors, thermal imaging cameras and its revolutionary Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system on the vessel in April 2018, following the 2017 signing of a joint development agreement with MOL.
The technology was fused together to give the vessel’s bridge team day-time-like situational awareness of the surrounding area, providing enhanced decision-making capability and improving the safety of the vessel.
“We turned night into day,” said Lindborg. “MOL and the Sunflower Gold crew were very satisfied with the results.”
Data obtained from this and other Rolls-Royce Intelligent Awareness (IA) projects will now be fed into the company’s machine learning algorithms to further develop the IA system, with the objective of putting a permanent installation aboard the Sunflower Gold later this year.
Kenta Arai, Director at MOL, said: “To achieve MOL’s high-level safety policy, Rolls-Royce and our project team had a discussion about how the Rolls-Royce Intelligent Awareness System could help our crew’s navigation duty aboard passenger ferry Sunflower Gold. Our crew always needs to be under intense situational awareness because our ferry runs through an area with heavy marine traffic in the dark and the relative speed is high.
“We specified the configuration of Intelligent Awareness for our ferry with Rolls-Royce’s advanced sensing and data fusion technology. The trial result was successful and we had good feedback from our crew. We are expecting to get a more effective and helpful system for our passenger ferry from the findings and the result of this project.”
Lindborg added: “MOL’s vision and commitment in this collaborative project has been absolutely crucial to the further development of our machine learning and Intelligent Awareness capability. They were able to give us valuable insights into their vessel’s operations and what navigating officers might encounter during operations. The more data we can collect the better the machine learning capability becomes.”
Data captured from tests onboard Finferries’ 65m double-ended ferry Stella, which operates between Korpo and Houtskär in the Archipelago Sea on the southwest coast of Finland, will also be fed into the Rolls-Royce machine learning algorithm.