In December, we talked about Amazon’s Drone Delivery System: What It’s All About
Also in December we talked about how Regional Shippers Pose New Threat to UPS, FedEx
We mentioned again the Amazon drone
While Amazon is piloting drone aircraft for package deliveries. A number of firms, especially in Europe, are working hard on the concept of driverless trucks.
So it shouldn’t really be any surprise that work is now also being on unmanned cargo and container ships as well.
News came out this week that Rolls Royce has been working on such a concept since late 2013. The research work is being performed under a project it calls Blue Ocean, and it has already created virtual-reality prototype at its research center in Alesund, Norway, that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel’s bridge.
Rolls Royce’s efforts are connecting to something called the Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks (MUNIN). The program is co-funded by the European Commissions and aims to develop and verify a concept for an autonomous ship, which is defined as a vessel primarily guided by automated on-board decision systems but controlled by a remote operator in a shore side control station.
MUNIN is a consortium of eight partners that have the relevant scientific and industrial background. The group is studying the operational, technical and legal aspects in connection with the vision of an autonomous ship.
Its web site says that “Solutions for an autonomous bridge, an autonomous engine room, a shore side operation center and the communication architecture linking vessel and a shore operator will be developed and verified” as a result of the program.
It hopes to develop a prototype ship that can be sailed by the end of 2015.
Of course, reducing operating costs is one big driver of the research. Ship crews can cost more than $3000 per day, and represent some 45% of total variable operating costs, industry experts say. Drone ships would dramatically reduce those labor costs.
Rolls Royce says that in addition to the labor savings, drone ships would be safer and more environmentally friendly.
Company drawings for the new ships show vessels loaded with containers from front to back, without the need for a “bridge” structure where the crew normally lives. Eliminating the bridge and all the other systems that support the crew (electrical systems, air conditioning, water and sewage, etc.) leaves more room for cargo or containers. Rolls Royce estimates that the ships would be 5% lighter before loading cargo and would use 12-15% less fuel.
Bloomberg notes the company’s Oskar Levander, vice president of innovation in marine engineering and technology, believes the unmanned ships might be deployed in regions such as the Baltic Sea within a decade, but that regulatory hurdles combined with industry and union pushback relative to safety and other issues will slow global adoption.
Unmanned ships wouldn’t even be legal currently, since there are standards in place for the minimum amount of crew different types of ships must carry. Organizations such as the International Maritime Organization, a group that is part of the UN, and others are involved in maintaining and potentially changing those standards. If a ship did not comply with existing crew standards, it would not be able to obtain insurance, and thus would not be able to sale.
It is not just big drones, but Monaco has small ones: Weevil drones – Weevil is in the trees, the palm trees that is. The French Riviera’s canarian palm trees are under attack from red weevils, which were first found as parasites in 2012 above the Jardin Exotique in Monaco. It transpired that Monaco was one of the last place to be invaded by the little red blighters with Cannes, Antibes, Nice and Cap d’Ail already affected. But the fightback is underway. The drones are coming. Monaco has an air force, and it’s spraying Monaco’s 276 canarian palms with an organic spray made out of mushrooms, which is evil for weevils, but nothing else.
Now for some late-breaking stuff:
Facebook Inc is in talks to buy drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million, according to media reports.
The high-flying drones would give Facebook, the world’s No.1 Internet social network, the ability to beam wireless Internet access to consumers in undeveloped parts of the world, according to the technology blog TechCrunch, which first reported the deal late on Monday citing an anonymous source.
The effort would help advance Facebook’s Internet.org effort, which aims to connect billions of people who do not currently have Internet access.
Facebook declined to comment. Titan Aerospace did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Titan is developing a variety of solar-powered “atmospheric satellites” according to the company’s website, with initial commercial operations slated for 2015.