NOVEMBER 1, 2016 — The U.K.'s Automated Ships Ltd (an M Subs Ltd subsidiary) and Norway's Kongsberg Maritime have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to build the Hrönn, the world's first unmanned and fully-automated vessel for offshore operations.
In January 2017, Automated Ships Ltd will contract the Hrönn, which will be designed and built in Norway in cooperation with Kongsberg.
Hrönn is expected to be built by Norwegian shipbuilder Fjellstrand AS, which has a long history of building state-of-the-art aluminum fast ferries in addition to a number of steel offshore vessels and aluminum work boats.
As the builder of the world's first battery driven car ferry, Ampere, Fjellstrand AS is well known for taking a lead in maritime innovation and green technology.
Sea trials will take place in Norway's newly designated automated vessel test bed in the Trondheim fjord. Thy will be conducted under the auspices of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), which will ultimately class and flag the Hrönn.
Currently, only small unmanned boats are being utilised for near shore operations but there are no technical limitations on construction of large, unmanned and automated systems. The only impediments are regulatory, but, says Kongsberg, with the participation of DNV GL and the NMA, and Norwegian and U.K. companies and institutions, it will be possible to rapidly and at low-cost be the first to market with a full-size unmanned ship.
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, ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) Launch & Recovery, light intermodal cargo delivery and delivery to offshore installations, and open-water fish farm support. The vessel can also be utilized as a standby vessel, able to provide firefighting support to an offshore platform working in cooperation with manned vessels.
Automated Ships Ltd is currently in discussion with several end-users that will act as early-adopters and to establish a base-rate for operations and secure contracts for Hrönn offshore, in the near future.
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.
Automated Ships Ltd will be the primary integrator, project manager and shipowner of this world's first fully automated and unmanned ship for commercial use. The project will leverage existing technology to develop a robust, flexible and low-cost ship 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.
Kongsberg's role in the project is to deliver all major marine equipment necessary for the design, construction and operation of Hrönn.
The leading global maritime technology manufacturer will deliver all 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.
"The advantages of unmanned ships are manifold, but primarily centre 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 revolutionise the marine industry. Automated Ships Ltd will be at the forefront of that revolution, along with its many Norwegian partners," said Managing Director Brett A. Phaneuf of Automated Ships Ltd.