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In 2017, Automated Ships Ltd will commission the world’s first unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations, Hrönn. The ship will be designed and built in Norway, in cooperation with Kongsberg Maritime AS and Automated Ships Ltd. Sea trials will take place in Norway and will be conducted under the auspices of Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) and the ship will ultimately be classed and flagged, respectively.
Automated Ships Ltd will be the primary integrator, project manager and ship-owner of the world’s first fully automated and unmanned ship for commercial operation initiatives, in Norway and abroad. The project will leverage existing technology to develop a robust, flexible and low-cost ship within one-year to become the market leader and offer not only a capable work-boat but provide an unparalleled R&D asset for the furtherance of this emerging industry sector.
Currently, only small unmanned boats are being utilized for near shore operations but there are no technical limitations to constructing large, unmanned and automated systems. The only impediments are regulatory but with the participation of DNV and the NMA, and the Norwegian and UK companies and institutions, it will be possible to rapidly and at low-cost be the first to market with a full-size unmanned ship.
The advantages of unmanned ships are manifold but primarily they center on the safe guarding of life and reduction in the cost of production and operations; removing people from the hazardous environment of at-sea operations and re-employing them on-shore to monitor and operate robotic vessels remotely, along with the significantly decreased cost in constructing ships, will revolutionize the marine industry. Automated Ships Ltd will be at the forefront of that revolution, along with its many Norwegian partners.
Concept of Operations
Hrönn is a light-duty, offshore, utility ship servicing the offshore energy, scientific/hydrographic and offshore fish-farming industries. Its intended uses include but are not limited to: survey, remotely operated vehicle systems deployment, touch-down monitoring, unmanned underwater vehicle launch, recovery and monitoring, light intermodal cargo delivery and delivery to offshore installations, and open-water fish farm support. The vessel will also be utilized as a standby vessel, able to provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in cooperation with manned vessels.
Hrönn will operate in the North Sea, GOMEX and/or West Africa and function primarily as a remotely piloted and monitored ship, in Man-on-the-Loop Control mode but will transition to fully automated operations, and ultimately autonomous operations as the control algorithms are developed concurrently during remotely piloted operations.
M Subs Ltd was founded in 2006 and is a highly specialized and vertically integrated company of approximately fifty (50) employees that designs, constructs and delivers exotic, prototype, manned and unmanned underwater vehicles and sub-sea robotic systems for a variety of defense/military and oil & gas industry clients. M Subs Ltd also participates in a wide variety of research and development programs in partnership with UK Government (Innovate UK) and numerous public and private academic institutions; most notably, M Subs Ltd is the primary engineering partner on the development of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (www.promare.org/mayflower) teamed with Plymouth University (UK) and ProMare, a US-based foundation.
Automated Ships Ltd (Incorporated in England and Wales. Registration no. 10132856, April 2016), is a wholly owned subsidiary of M Subs Ltd, that will focus on the design, construction and operation of the first full-sized, commercial, unmanned ship. Built in Norway, the construction of this market-making ship-type will be a world-first and watershed moment for the maritime industry and will leverage the world-leading technology and expertise of numerous Norwegian companies and academic institutions, i.e.: Kongsberg Maritime, Fjellstrand, NTNU and Det Norske Veritas (DNV).
Kongsberg Maritime AS will provide the tightly integrated electronics systems and marine equipment necessary for the operation of Hrönn. Kongsberg Maritime AS delivers systems for dynamic positioning and navigation, marine automation, safety management, cargo handling, subsea survey and construction, maritime simulation and training, and satellite positioning. Their solutions enhance efficiency and safety throughout the whole maritime technology spectrum and offers additional competence in providing turnkey engineering services within the shipbuilding and floating production sectors.
Det Norske Veritas (DNV) will work as an un-funded partner, utilizing their own internal R&D department, to develop the new rule set that will govern the design, construction and operation of this new class of ship; this will provide a low-cost path to certification in parallel to the design, fabrication and commissioning of the ship. The Norwegian Maritime Authority will ‘flag’ the vessel upon completion of sea trials but will participate in the project from inception, resulting in state-of-the-art, world-first, commercial unmanned ship capable of independent operations offshore. The project is project to last two years, 16 months for design and fabrication, 6 months for sea trials and 3 months for updates and improvements prior to receiving its class-certificate and flag.