British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat has agreed to participate in a Rolls-Royce-led advanced autonomous waterborne applications initiative (AAWA) to develop the next-generation of advanced ship solutions.

Funded by Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), the project is a collaboration between industry partners, universities, research institutes and other stakeholders.

The participants will identify legal and regulatory implications to create autonomous ships.

"The high-performance, high-throughput network will open up unlimited possibilities for maritime applications."

Inmarsat will provide satellite communications link and platform for remote control capability.

The company’s Global Xpress and L-band constellations will deliver Fleet Xpress service to facilitate data transfer between ships, and between ships and shore-based control centres.

Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout said: "The launch of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress mobile broadband network, which forms the heart of the new Fleet Xpress service, is a real turning point for the future of the maritime industry and ideally lends itself to the AAWA initiative.

"Fleet Xpress will enable the ship-to-shore communications required to support the remote control functionality fundamental to the realisation of the autonomous ship.

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"The high-performance, high-throughput network will open up unlimited possibilities for maritime applications and real-time monitoring and analysis of data, for smarter shipping today and the future."

The business side of autonomous applications, safety and security implications of designing and operating remotely operated ships, the legal and regulatory implications will be covered under the project.

Existence and readiness of a supplier network to deliver commercially applicable products will also be considered.

The AAWA project is expected to run until the end of 2017.