Rolls-Royce invests in R&D for autonomous shipping

Rolls Royce

Rolls-Royce has announced the latest stage in its research and development plans to make remote and autonomous shipping a reality and “reap the benefits of increasing digitalisation in the marine industry.”

On 8 March, the manufacturing business revealed that Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation – has given a significant research grant to enable Rolls-Royce to invest further in an R&D centre in Turku, Finland. The company plans to carry out further development projects there focused on the future development of land-based control centres, and the use of artificial intelligence in future remote and autonomous shipping operations.

“Digitalisation will transform the shipping industry in the years ahead, and the time is now right to set out how we are going to make this happen,” said Mikael Mäkinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Marine. “Over the coming years we need to invest globally to develop the required capabilities and to establish a range of market-ready products and systems to take advantage of what is a significant global market opportunity.

“By combining our world leading capability and knowledge, with a clear plan of where we need to go next, we can work with our customers, governments and our global academic research network to develop and bring to market the advanced technology, products and supporting services needed both ‘on-vessel’ and ‘on-shore’ to make our vision of future remote and autonomous ships a reality.”

In Norway, the company is currently investing in a range of R&D projects, which will include a new Marine Fleet Management Centre in Aalesund to allow remote monitoring, data analysis, optimisation of ships and their on-board equipment. The centre will allow Rolls-Royce to extend its ‘power by the hour’ concept, already proven in its aerospace business, to serve the marine sector. ‘Power by the hour’ is a new service to be delivered from the marine division of Rolls-Royce which makes use of ‘big data’ to monitor, plan and perform maintenance and repairs on on-board ship equipment.

“We are pleased to see the establishment of a centre for Remote Control & Autonomous Ships in Finland, and welcome the continued support from Tekes,” said Asbjørn Skaro, Rolls-Royce, Director, Digital & Systems – Marine. “We are looking at further funding and capability opportunities in countries including Finland, Norway, the UK and Singapore to develop our ship intelligence technology and build customer partnerships worldwide.

“By drawing on our existing capabilities in our Marine business, together with the global expertise we have across the Rolls-Royce Group and our relationships with partners, we believe we can secure up to £200 million ($323 million) of investment to revolutionise shipping.”