A pre-analysis on autonomous ships in Denmark indicates that autonomous technologies and solutions will play a vital role in Blue Denmark’s future.
The Danish Technological University and the Danish Maritime Authority have examined the potential for unmanned ships in Denmark, stating that it needs to be frontrunners with technological developments. As all transport sectors are turning towards unmanned ships, Denmark will explore the potential for such technologies in order to increase productivity, ease logistics and enhance safety in the maritime sector.
The pre-analysis identifies where there are possibilities for technology developments and pilot projects to help generate a safe platform for autonomous vessels at sea.
In terms of vessels, island ferries, tugs, barges, supply vessels for drilling and wind turbines and vessels for underwater servicing are the most likely for use in the development of autonomous systems, electric propulsion and trials of alternative types of energy. According to the pre-analysis, these vessels will undergo shorter periods of operation, and reap higher savings eventually from autonomous operation.
Different activities will be tested using autonomous operation according to the pre-analysis. Sensor technologies will make it possible to change the lookout procedure onboard ships, which could lead to a change in ship design, arrangement and operation. For example, a sensor based lookout would reduce the need for a navigation bridge and navigating officers, optimising cargo handling space.
Sensor technologies will also be used to ensure the operation centre has sufficient information about the ship and its surroundings to perform remotely operated navigation.
Furthermore, using autonomous technologies will strengthen the competitiveness of other means of transport. Drones would be able to perform tasks that small ships currently do. Underwater robots could perform regular inspections and swim to an unmanned mother ship to hand over the video and sensor signals from the inspection. They could even be able to recharge at this location to carry out further inspections.
All autonomous units will need continuous inspection and monitoring according to the pre-analysis, with a shore-based operational centre on hand in case of any signs of changes that need a human expert for assessment. In the development and implementation of autonomous vessels and technologies, land and shore based supervision will need to be implemented.