Plymouth-based Automated Ships Ltd and the Norwegian maritime technology manufacturer Kongsberg Maritime, of Kongsberg, are to build the first unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations. She is due to enter service in 2018.
The Hrönn, 104gt, has been serving the offshore energy, scientific/ hydrographic and offshore fish-farming industries and will be converted at the Fjellstrand shipyard in Norway.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two companies, Automated Ships will be the primary integrator, project manager and owner of the fully automated and unmanned ship. Kongsberg will provide all the major marine equipment necessary for the design, re-construction and operation of the Hrönn, which will be ordered by Automated Ships this month.
Kongsberg will deliver all the systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication. All vessel control systems including K-Pos dynamic positioning, K-Chief automation and K-Bridge ECDIS will be replicated at an onshore control centre, allowing full remote operations of the Hrönn.
“We are excited to be part of the first project to actually realise the potential of unmanned vessels by supporting the construction of the first full size, fully operational example,” said Stene Førsund, of Kongsberg Maritime.
“The Hrönn is a great example of Kongsberg’s commitment to developing autonomous and unmanned vessels. We are involved in several major projects in this field including Autosea, which focuses on integrated sensor technology and fusion, and automated collision avoidance systems. The company is also a key stakeholder in the world’s first official autonomous vehicles test bed, which opened last September in the Trondheimsfjord.”
The sea trials will be carried out in the test bed and will be conducted under the supervision of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA). The Hrönn is a light-duty, offshore utility ship servicing the offshore energy, scientific/hydrographic and offshore fish farming industries.
Her intended uses after conversion include: survey; remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) launch and recovery; light intermodal cargo delivery and delivery to offshore installations; and open-water fish farm support. The vessel can also be used as a standby vessel, able to provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in cooperation with manned vessels.
The Hrönn will initially operate and function primarily as a remotely piloted ship, in Man-in-the-Loop Control mode, but will transition to fully automated, and ultimately autonomous operations as the control algorithms are developed concurrently during remotely piloted operations.