VIDEO: Kiel launches autonomous ferry test vessel

Written by Nick Blenkey
Wavelab is a testbed for a planned Kiel autonomous ferry service

Wavelab is a loating autonomous ferry test bed [Image: CAPTN Initiative]

Stockholm, Sweden, is not the only European city aiming to get an autonomous passenger ferry into operation (see earlier story). Kiel, Germany, also has a boat in the water. That vessel is the M/V Wavelab.

Christened last month at the Gebrüder Friedrich shipyard in Kiel-Friedrichsort, the 20.9 meter long by 8.1 meter beam vessel aluminum hulled ferry is powered by two 50 kW emission-free electric drives and two rudder propellers and can carry up to 12 passengers. As its name suggests it is, essentially, a test vessel

The Wavelab is owned by the Research and Development Center of the Kiel University of Applied Sciences (FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel GmbH). It is intended to provide data and assess the conditions for autonomous passenger shipping in Kiel.

An important feature of the vessel is a white sensor frame running around it above its air conditioned wheelhouse. This will be used for optimal positioning of the sensor technology that will be key to autonomous operation.

FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel heads a consortium of five project partners. Over the past two years, the have developed and implemented concepts for the floating test vehicle, a digital test field and the corresponding assistance systems as part of a wider project called the CAPTN initiative,

The digital test field enables real-time communication via WLAN between the vessel and a control center on land. The data collected by the Wavelab is needed for the development of software systems for autonomous operation.

Autonomous operation will be tested – under the supervision of a captain – on an area not accessible for public vessels.

Of course, there have been plenty of earlier tests of autonomous ferry tests at centers around the world. The hope is that the work in Kiel can move things nearer to the point where they become a practical proposition.

“The CAPTN Initiative is striving to establish an autonomous and clean mobility chain across all modes of transport,” said Prof. Dr. Eckhard Quandt of Kiel’s Christian-Albrechts-Universität (CAU), one of the partners in the project. “For an autonomous ferry to function, large amounts of data are required, which serve as the basis for reliable and efficient navigational behavior. We are pleased that we now have an research vessel that is able to test these technologies on an actual site.”

  • You can find out more about the CAPTN Initiative and Wavelab HERE
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