Seakeeping of autonomous ships

Continuing the discussion from FleetMon SANCHI tragedy and profanation of navigating:

This leads me to wonder what sort of “feel” will be built into autonomous ships, and how this might be done.

I’m afraid there will be no “feel” of any kind, but that is the cost of “progress” I presume??

BTW There are very few left at sea that have that knowledge, or ability to “feel”, even on manned ships I believe. Some old and experiences guys on small ship may be the exceptions.

When Brattvaag Hydraulic tried to develop a hydraulic drawwork back in the early 1990’s they did away with the traditional break handle and replaced it with a joystick.
They invited some seasoned drillers to test out the functions and give their comments. The main complain was that there were no “feel” like they were used to when they “hung on the break handle”.

The solution? A vibration that varied relative to the break effect applied was introduced to the joystick. .

There will have to be some method of keeping the autonomous stuff operating within the limits of the vessel under difficult weather and sea conditions. Perhaps we will have to lose a few before that becomes obvious?

Were there any “stuff” sensing that this ship was getting stressed beyond her limits?:

Photo by Master of the salvage tug Capricorn

Or this?:

There may be sensors recording actual g-forces and bending at different points along the hull.
You can make an autonomous vessel change course, slow down, or even heave too, either by remote control or based on preset limits from such sensors.

But most likely the stability, bending moment and weather routing limitations will be more stringent than for a manned vessel.

All I know that it isn’t ignorant idiots that will design, build, operate or approve such vessels. Before one goes to sea there will be more tests and simulations done then we can even dream of.
Those who are going to invest their money and those who are going to insure the ships and underwrite the cargo will demand it.

I, for one, welcome my robot overlords!

In all seriousness though, I see during my career manned ships becoming a thing of the past, along with long haul trucks and cabs, with ships being crewed with pilots and deckhands when pilotage becomes necessary.

I don’t see engineers going away though

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It’s easy to see with the direction that technology is taking how easy it would be to implement an AI or remote controlled driven ship or workboat. Different militaries around the world already pilot drones from a respectful distance. I’m not trying to compare Nautical to Aerospace transportation but it seems unmanned ships are quite the possibility. Although I do see a need for redundancy in the engine room dept.

The difference I see with a drone is partly that is isn’t full of a hundred thousand tons of whatever, partly that it’s way faster and can run away from weather, and partly that the air/aircraft boundary carries much lower energy available to do mischief than the air/water/ship boundary.

A pilot (or drone) doesn’t have to choose his course to avoid overstressing his machine; he stays away from conditions that would do that. He doesn’t have to contend with very large energy contained in wave systems; he doesn’t have to concern himself with wave period relative to the length of his craft. He never pounds; nothing carries away on deck; he doesn’t have to worry about hatch covers or vents or containers going adrift; he’s never heard of parametric rolling. And he doesn’t have to slog into such conditions for days at a time to get where he’s going.

He doesn’t have to contend with very large energy contained in wave systems; he doesn’t have to concern himself with wave period relative to the length of his craft.

Meteorology, including sea state predictions, are quite advanced and I am very sure the AI could take both into account with updates of its course.

that will add a few accelerometers around the ship for sure, might help the world of naval architecture with more data for them

I understand your point but also see that I was not trying to compare the load or maneuverability of either machine.

My point was that it would be very easy to make any ship travel from point A to B with the technology available today.

On a side note, I would feel comfortable with this guy at the wheel:

Insurance is a calculation of risk and the premium set accordingly.
You can insure the virginity of your 18 year old daughter, but the premium will be VERY high.

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The ships of the future will not be just a copy of today’s, with a “box of tricks” to do the navigation and another to keep the engine(s) running.

If you look at a diesel/electric DP-3 class CSV or other highly sophisticated vessels, with 100% redundancy for all ecessial machinery, equipment and systems, you can already see the outline of a ship able to sail itself,

Replace the diesels with Hydrogen Fuel Cells and remove all systems needed to keep the crew comfortable and safe and the need for anybody to watch the machinery will be eliminated as well.

Will it be cheap to build such vessels?? NO!!!
Will it be safe to send such vessels on a ocean voyage unmanned??
Eventually, but after extensive model tests, simulations, trials and possibly some errors.
Will it be cheaper to operate such vessels??
Probably, but it will require a VERY different management than today.
Will it take away seafaring jobs??
Yes obviously, but it will create other jobs for those who are able and willing to upgrade their skills to suite the requirements.
When will this happen??
Sooner than most of us think.

PS> It will also take care of the emission problem that is looming over the shipping industry today.

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I see it also as a way for ship owners and their investors to cut back on crew costs. If I’m not mistaken, the average crew cost for the vessel day rate cuts into around 1/3 depending on the size of the vessel and other details.

Not to compare to a fast food chain, but to cut back on employee costs and payroll, why not just autonomize the vanguard?

Hydrogen fuel cells - here are a couple of links to some interesting data. I’ve limited knowledge of the more technical aspects of batteries and fuel cells used in propulsion systems and got lost a bit in the minutia. Also, they are talking of cars and trucks but I would think it could be extrapolated to larger plants we will see on ships some day.

In the comments section of the first link below, the commenter each say the other is full of it. Usually the truth lies somewhere in between.

It will be interesting to see this play out over the next decade(s?). Naturally/Personally I hope it take longer but some of the younger members on this forum may see it in some form in their lifetime.

You have obviously never flown an aircraft through the rotor of a mountain wave or heard of clear air turbulence.

Look up JAL flight 46E and BOAC Flight 911.


Yes there are tremendous forces acting on both airplanes and ships and the same challenge of forecast and avoidance of extreme conditions.
It is not always possible, but at least if an autonomous ship should sink, or a drone aircraft fall down, there are no people in harms way. (Unless the aircraft should fall into a built up area maybe?)

Not to compare to a fast food chain,

Compare it to any industry.

but to cut back on employee costs and payroll

Everyone looos our for their bottom line, which isn’t necessarily bad and it frees up human capital. I don’t think we’ll ever hit post scarcity, but no one really complains about having a dishwasher or vacuum, hell even excavators compared to the alternative.

Before the Irish invented the wheel this was how things were transported:

Of course, after a few Guinness they are still debating if round was the best solution

Perhaps I overstated my case. But I still believe that the ship poses a more difficult problem. That doesn’t, of course, make me right. :slight_smile:

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Square wheel on inverted catenaries