Iridium Communications has signed a letter of intent (LoI) with Rolls-Royce Marine (RRM) to further enhance the capability of autonomous vessels.

As part of the deal, both the companies intend to jointly explore the feasibility of integrating Iridium’s next-generation L-band satellite broadband service, Iridium Certus, into RRM’s Ship Intelligence solutions.

With the partnership, RRM is expected to have a flexible and reliable broadband capability that can be used as a standalone option or high throughput backup, as well as expand the reach of autonomous vessels to the global waterways.

Rolls-Royce Marine Ship Intelligence technical product manager Kenneth Solberg said: “When evaluating partners for our remote and autonomous vessel development programme and Ship Intelligence solutions, Iridium is complementing our connectivity strategy for a number of reasons.

“Their new interconnected Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network is able to provide global coverage with low latencies for both coastal and ocean-going vessels, while at the same time having the robustness of the L-band.

“And being an actor with truly global coverage, including polar regions, vessel owners will have the confidence that wherever they sail their ship, it will stay connected.”

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“Vessel owners will have the confidence that wherever they sail their ship, it will stay connected.”

Iridium’s current constellation of satellites facilitates several maritime applications such as voice and data communications, and is expected to be improved with Iridium Certus.

Iridium Certus is developed to support streamlining of various vessel operations such as command and control, engine diagnostics, tracking information, as well as other on-board processes for a simple, secure and reliable experience.

RRM solutions are also designed to deliver multiple enhancements to ships to allow remote diagnostics, operations and performance monitoring capabilities, as well as automation.

Iridium Communications vice-president and general manager Wouter Deknopper said: “Enabling the digitalisation of shipping is at the core of our strategy for our maritime business, and we are proud to begin exploring this opportunity with Rolls-Royce Marine.”

Iridium is currently developing its NEXT constellation of satellites, which include 75 LEO satellites.