Rolls-Royce has launched a sophisticated situational awareness system that fuses multiple sensors with intelligent software to enhance visibility and mitigate against the safety risks navigators face when operating vessels at night, in adverse weather conditions or in congested waterways.

The Intelligent Awareness (IA) system is the first of its kind to be made commercially available that uses data collection to enhance navigational safety and operational efficiency. Launched at the beginning of March, Rolls-Royce claim that the technology has attracted a good deal of interest already and the team sees the superyacht sector as an important future market.

“The IA system forms part of our ongoing development of the autonomous ship, but we decided to make the technology available today as it offers real benefits to the existing shipping environment,” says Iiro Lindborg, general manager of remote and autonomous operations. “IA is undoubtedly one of the most significant advances made to-date in terms of ship navigation safety. It provides bridge personnel with a much greater understanding of the ship’s surroundings.”

What IA does is fuse data from multiple sources to provide a comprehensive overview of the vessel’s external situation in four user interface modes; virtual reality (2D and 3D), augmented reality and precision mode. The technology creates a 3D map of a vessel based on Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser beam to measure distances. It can be linked to GPS data to create 3D environments that allow crews to ‘see what the human eye cannot’.

"It provides an advisory solution to supplement basic information available from ECDIS and RADAR, with the LIDAR 3D map creating an accurate bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.”

Precision mode relies on LIDAR to provide accurate distances between a vessel and its surroundings. This is particularly useful when navigating along narrow routes, congested waterways or while docking or undocking. The operator can rotate the view using the interface and inspect distances in greater detail.

Augmented reality mode gives a live video feed from the IA sensors. The object detection system identifies both static and dynamic objects, including sea-markers and vessels that are not visible on AIS. By selecting a vessel on the display, further identification information is displayed, such as vessel name and type, speed, heading and distance.

In virtual reality 2D and 3D modes, sensor data is fused with map data and operators can view their vessel in its wider environment. In 3D mode, the vessel and its surroundings are displayed in bird’s eye view. As well as object detection, information such as speed, heading and distance are displayed. The operator can make use of functions to modify sea marker range or define no-go zones. In addition, fairways and depth information are displayed.

The IA system, therefore, gives navigators much better visibility and can be implemented on a range of vessels in a variety of situations. “We can use the IA system on any ship where there is a need for better situational awareness, particularly during night-time sailings or in adverse weather conditions,” adds Lindborg. “It provides an advisory solution to supplement basic information available from ECDIS and RADAR, with the LIDAR 3D map creating an accurate bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.” 

The IA system has been initially launched and promoted to the cruise ship market as Rolls-Royce sees its greatest benefits in passenger shipping. But as additional sensors and applications are added to the platform, the system aims to target other vessels, such as large container ships and superyachts. 



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