Sea Machines Robotics Inc. announced today that it and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC have collaborated on three new ship automation products that will improve safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. The companies first announced their collaboration at the Monaco Yacht Show in September 2021.
“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,” stated Michael G. Johnson, founder and CEO of Sea Machines. “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.”
Founded in 2015, Sea Machines has developed autonomous command-and-control and advanced perception systems for the marine and defense industries. The Boston-based company said its software and systems work with ships, workboats, and commercial passenger vessels.
Sea Machines contributes to mtu NautIQ line
London-based Rolls-Royce said its expanded mtu NautIQ product range follows its strategy to be a leading marine innovator and to provide customers with complete propulsion and control solutions “from bridge to propeller.” The mtu NautIQ CoPilot, CoOperate, and CoDirect offer different levels of intelligent crew support, autonomous control, and remote command capabilities, it said.
Rolls-Royce and Sea Machines claimed that mtu NautIQ CoPilot is “the most advanced intelligent pilot-assist system of the new product 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.
The system enables navigation with greater precision and predictability, helping to reduce costs, fuel consumption, and emissions, said the companies. It includes fusion of digital marine sensors, embedded electronic charts, AI algorithms, and broad-area computer vision, according to Sea Machines and Rolls-Royce.
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 companies said.
The tug Nellie Bly used mtu NautIQ CoOperate to complete a 1,000 nautical mile (NM; 1,852 km) roundtrip from Hamburg around Denmark, remotely commanded from an office in Boston, Mass., 3,000 NM (5,556 km) away. As with all the new products, operators can intervene at any moment if necessary, said Rolls-Royce.
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 m (3,280.8 ft.). This allows marine crews to operate the vessel from the best vantage point, increasing safety and efficiency, Rolls-Royce and Sea Machines said.
For example, a tug operator can leave the wheelhouse to operate the vessel from a location with better visibility.
Rolls-Royce collaborates for sustainability
“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,” said Denise Kurtulus, vice president for global marine at the Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit. “This addition to our mtu NautIQ product portfolio is an important part of our journey towards a provider of integrated sustainable solutions.”
Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG said it is transforming from an engine manufacturer to a provider of integrated, sustainable systems. It has positioned the mtu brand as climate-friendly propulsion and power systems for the marine market.
With its “Net Zero at Power Systems” sustainability program, Rolls-Royce Power Systems said it is working toward “climate-neutral” systems. For example, starting in 2023, the Friedrichshafen, Germany-based business plans to release its mtu Series 2000 and 4000 engines for sustainable fuels such as e-diesel and second-generation biofuels, thus enabling climate-neutral operation in all applications. In addition to using sustainable fuels, the company is also working on new technologies such as CO2-free fuel-cell systems.
Rolls-Royce Holdings said it has customers in more than 150 countries, including more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces and navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers. The company's annual underlying revenue was £10.95 billion ($14.39 billion U.S.) in 2021, its underlying operating profit was £414 million ($543.9 million), and it invested £1.18 billion ($1.55 billion) on research and development. Rolls-Royce also supports a global network of 28 university technology centers.
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