“Eyeball and Earhole Equivalence” essential in the development of unmanned systems

There are plenty of examples of autonomous or unmanned craft already according to James Fanshawe, head of a UK working group looking at guidelines for their increased use in the maritime domain, who believes any developments must be done by companies that are responsible, accredited and are able to provide the right level of training.

Fanshawe, an ex-Royal Navy commander, is chairman of the UK Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group.  He used the Fathom Fleet Transformation event to offer an update of a code of practice that is currently under development and to say that there needs to be a status quo in air and water space management that allows both manned and unmanned systems to operate.

A number of key organisations are pushing ahead the technologies and trial projects for unmanned systems around the world and therefore industry needs harmonised definitions, and a full understanding of where existing regulations need to be amended.

There also needs to be the acceptance that any unmanned sophisticated system has to have equivalence to “eyeball and earhole. As if someone is doing the watch,” he said.

He referenced a scoping study that the IMO has announced it will start to look at existing rules 8such as SOLAS and MARPOL) that will may need changing if unmanned or increased autonomy is seent o be desirable in some maritime sectors.

To develop safe systems that can operate in the maritime domain where there are thousands of maned vessels will require care and open dialogue. Companies need to have a consensus on standards to ensure any rule changes are effective and provide that required level of safety.

A high level conference in Southampton takes place on 16th and 17th November to look at the next steps in the regulatory framework.


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