When ships are autonomous, the navy and other shipping industries won’t need a crew onboard.
That’s what Rolls-Royce is working on with their autonomous naval vessel concept that plans to have a 3,500 nautical-mile range.
Earlier this week, the British company known for its cars unveiled plans for the nearly 200-foot long ship with an electric propulsion system that makes humans unnecessary.
The company sees a future in the next 10 years or so where autonomous boats are out in the water for up to 100 days, eliminating the need for remote controlled ships or crews.
Rolls-Royce general manager of naval electrics, automation and control, Benjamin Thorp said in a news release, “Such ships offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew, and cut both operating and build costs.”
That means the ships could be used for military purposes without risking human life. They could complete surveillance and patrol missions without needing to worry about supplies and or the risks of a human crew. What’s considered a dangerous mission could change if people aren’t part of the equation. Also, without people and supplies, the ships will have a much lighter load.
These ships, which navies could mix into their fleets, will of course feature Rolls-Royce electric generators — or could eventually run on gas turbines. Other tools from the company will also be included to help the ship run on its own.
A big issue is fuel consumption, so the company is putting photovoltaic solar panels on the vessel to power the boat while its idling or using less power. It’ll also have 3,000kWh of energy storage, just in case.
Rolls-Royce says autonomous technology is mostly already here, so this is the next step. It’s just a matter of pairing powerful sensors with artificial intelligence to create an awareness system that can navigate itself, according to the company.
The ship is all conceptual, but the Verge reported a Norwegian company is launching an automated cargo ship next year that plans to be autonomous by 2020. The U.S. military has an autonomous warship, as well.
So keep an eye on the water for when these crew-less ships set sail.