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The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) with Rolls-Royce to support autonomous, remote controlled shipping as part of its Space 4.0 program.

The space agency’s collaboration with Rolls-Royce aims to develop and validate new solutions for communication between vessel systems and shore based systems in addition to ship-to-ship communication. 

This will enable the operation of commercial remote and autonomous shipping, innovative cargo logistics, smart ports and future commercial marine vessels.

According to a press release, next-gen 5G communications will rely on seamless integration of telecom networks and services, and the same does apply to the Smart Shipping industry too.

“The current wireless carriers like satellite and associated infrastructure need to be developed to facilitate the development of remote & autonomous ships, as existing configurations were not designed for this purpose,” said Karno Tenovuo, Rolls-Royce, SVP Ship Intelligence.

“Rolls-Royce and the ESA will look at developing satellite-based positioning for ‘smart’ ships which will be based on its ‘earth observation platform’. This could create greater spatial and situational awareness for those operating the vessel remotely. It will also allow satellites to capture and share the data from a number of vessels simultaneously.”

ESA already serves the maritime community with many satellite capabilities. SAT-AIS (Satellite Automatic Identification System) permits identification and global tracking of ships using cutting-edge space and ground technology, using low Earth orbiting satellites to act as information relays to serve the whole globe. This results in more efficient use of existing infrastructures, a tangible reduction in cost and a decrease in the environmental impact.

Rolls-Royce and ESA also plan to cooperate in harnessing the power of big data. Data analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve operational efficiency, reliability and safety. Sensor data will inform augmented and virtual realities, or ‘digital twins.’

A digital twin is an AI copy of a ship, including its systems, that synthesizes the information available about the ship in a hologram.

Image and content credit: Rolls-Royce

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