Rolls-Royce extends its range of intelligent crew support systems

Written by Nick Blenkey
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In the next step of a cooperation with Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics announced in September last year, Rolls-Royce is expanding its range of MTU NautIQ ship automation systems with three new products: MTU NautIQ CoPilot, MTU NautIQ CoOperate and MTU NautIQ CoDirect.

Rolls-Royce says that continued development of the NautIQ product range is at the core of its strategy to be an innovation leader in the marine business and to provide customers with complete propulsion and control solutions from “bridge to propeller.”

Each of the new products offer different levels of intelligent crew support, autonomous control, and remote command capabilities.

MTU NautIQ CoPilot is the most advanced intelligent pilot assist system in the new range. Depending on operating mode, the human-on-the-loop system can either autonomously control a planned voyage from start to finish, or not intervene at all in human operations, while only guiding the operator. Rolls-Royce says the system enables navigation with greater precision and predictability, helping to reduce costs, fuel consumption and emissions. It is an important step towards more climate-friendly marine operations, made possible by the fusion of digital marine sensors, embedded electronic charts, advanced AI algorithms and an advanced broad-area computer vision systems.

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MTU NautIQ CoOperate is an optionally autonomous ship navigation command system which enables off-boat remote command, including all payloads on board. The system can take over routine and monotonous vessel tasks and it allows crews to focus on more important aspects of their missions. The system has recently proven itself in the field in spectacular fashion: The tug Nellie Bly used the system to complete a 1,000 nautical mile roundtrip from Hamburg around Denmark, remotely commanded from an office in Boston, 3,000 nautical miles away. As with all the new products, operators can intervene at any moment if necessary.

MTU NautIQ CoDirect is a wireless, remote-helm system that can control a vessel’s engines, steering and transmission as well as payload functions such as winches and cranes from a distance of up to 1,000 meters. This allows marine crews to operate the vessel from the best vantage point, increasing safety and efficiency. For example, a tug operator can leave the wheelhouse to operate the vessel from a location with better visibility.

“This continued partnership is significant because it brings together a foremost marine power and propulsion solutions provider and the leading developer of advanced and AI-based vessel control systems,” said Sea Machines CEO and founder, Michael G. Johnson. “Our alliance not only increases access to intelligent technologies that can positively impact operators’ bottom lines, productivity, eco-stewardship and safety, but it also provides proof of the growing market demand for these types of systems for real-world operations. We thank Rolls-Royce for their continued trust in our technology and look forward to seeing these systems in use aboard a variety of vessel types globally.”

Denise Kurtulus, vice president, Global Marine at Rolls-Royce business unit Power Systems, said: “I am excited to see how quickly the teams of Rolls-Royce and Sea Machines have turned our joint vision into products available for our customers. This addition to our mtu NautIQ product portfolio is an important part of our journey towards a provider of integrated sustainable solutions. And it’s a fantastic example of how we, as a company with long history and tradition, implement cutting-edge technology – which benefits our customers and the environment alike – in a very agile way.”

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