Rolls-Royce launches "Intelligent Awareness" navigation system

March 6, 2018 - On Tuesday, Rolls-Royce debuted a sophisticated new "situational awareness system" that uses sensors and intelligent software to help mariners manage safety risks. 

Rolls-Royce says that its Intelligent Awareness (IA) system is the first of its kind on the market. “The IA system forms part of our ongoing development of the autonomous ship, but we decided to make the technology available today as it offers real benefits to the existing shipping environment," said Iiro Lindborg, Rolls-Royce's general manager for remote and autonomous operations. "IA is undoubtedly one of the most significant advances made to date in terms of ship navigation safety. It provides bridge personnel with a much greater understanding of the ship’s surroundings.”

The system builds on Rolls-Royce's work with Stena, MOL and the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Application project, and it relies on LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to measure distances. LIDAR is the same underlying technology commonly used in autonomous car prototypes.  

Using data from LIDAR and GPS, the IA system builds a 3D representation of the area around the ship. “It provides an advisory solution to supplement basic information available from ECDIS and radar, with the LIDAR 3D map creating an accurate bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area," says Lindborg.

An IA system will be installed onboard the passenger ferry Sunflower, which MOL operates between Kobe and Oita, Japan, via the Akashi Kaikyo, Bisan Seto and Kurushima Straits. “Sunflower . . . operates in some of the most congested waters in the world and will provide an opportunity to test rigorously Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness system. This can give our crews an enhanced decision support tool, increasing their safety and that of our vessels," said MOL director Kenta Arai. 

Rolls-Royce picked Seatrade as the venue for its announcement because it sees passenger vessels as one of the best opportunities for the new technology. The firm says that is useful for any ship where there is a need for better situational awareness, particularly during night-time sailings or in adverse weather conditions. Sales manager Henrik Grönlund says that it has potential applications aboard many classes of high-value vessels, like large container ships. 

Source: Maritime Executive