New report examines future of autonomous maritime systems

12 September 2017

  • LR, QinetiQ and the University of Southampton launch new insights report into future developments and challenges in Marine Autonomy

  • Report considers employment, skills and socio-economic impacts of autonomous systems

  • The ability of regulatory and legal systems to adapt will be a challenge

  • Consumer-driven technology developments will drive the pace of change

  • Changing skillsets will be required for seafarers

Maritime activity over the next decade will be dominated by unmanned surface and underwater vessels, according to a report on the future of autonomous maritime systems launched today.

GMTT2030 for pageWritten and researched by LR, QinetiQ and the University of Southampton, the report is a follow-up to Global Marine Technology Trends 2030, looking at how technology trends will impact upon the regulatory and social aspects of maritime operations.

Tim Kent, Technical Director, Marine and Offshore, LR, said: “Networks of autonomous surface and underwater vessels are set to radically change the nature of maritime operations. Developments widely reported in the media, such as those in autonomous shipping, are happening with greater pace than expected as little as 2 years ago. These developments enabled by technology provide new opportunities and potential for disruptive business models. However, the principal challenges will be the integration of these autonomous systems into current maritime operations, legal and regulatory requirements, and not least the impact upon seafarers.”

Bill Biggs, Senior Campaign Leader for Autonomy, QinetiQ, said: “Technological advances in consumer and adjacent markets are a real opportunity for the maritime sector. Applied artificial intelligence, low cost low size sensors, increased connectivity, improved cyber security and better energy management are all likely to drive rapid and disruptive change. Trials already undertaken by navies and transport companies demonstrate the opportunities that autonomous maritime systems present. In 2016 QinetiQ supported Unmanned Warrior, the largest demonstration of its type ever conducted, running as part of a major multinational naval exercise. It’s just one example of the steps the UK is taking to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.”

Professor Ajit Shenoi, Director of the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute at the University of Southampton, said: “The report recognises that autonomous systems and associated technologies will require people to learn to work seamlessly with them. Crew members of the future may become shore based, managing vessels remotely from the office or the sea, creating the need for new training and skillsets. The potential for the command and control to be geographically displaced from the vessel will also require behavioural and cultural changes within the maritime community.”

David Dingle CBE, Chairman of Maritime UK said: “I’m delighted that this timely and thought-provoking report is being launched during London International Shipping Week, demonstrating the UK’s preeminent role in cutting-edge innovation and thought leadership for our global industry. This thought leadership from three world-leading companies and educational institutions, coupled with exciting developments from leading manufacturers such as Rolls Royce, ASV and a wealth of small and medium size players, mean that the UK, the world’s maritime centre, really is leading the autonomy revolution.”

To download a copy of Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 Autonomous Systems report please visit www.lr.org/GMTT2030

This latest report on autonomous maritime systems builds upon the work that the LR Foundation is involved with in this area. The Foundation’s Foresight review on robotics and autonomous systems: Serving a safer world was published in October 2016. The report found that there are some important areas which need addressing if society is to see the safety benefits from the implementation of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS). RAS is one of these emerging research disciplines which the Foundation can help to develop. Smart, connected machines, or robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), are acting as tools to support us, making independent decisions and even learning. They act and sense in the real world, connected and collaborating in the internet of things, generating and enabled by large quantities of data, using artificial intelligence to reason, classify, control and interact. They have emerged from research prototypes into practical applications.