Netherlands-based RH Marine has commenced a three-year research project to support safe autonomous sailing of ships.

As part of the research, RH Marine intends to develop three different algorithms that will allow unmanned self-propelled vessels to sail efficiently by recognising and avoiding dangerous situations.

The first algorithm will be developed to help optimise the way for an entire autonomous vessel fleet to efficiently sail from A to B at the lowest possible cost.

The second algorithm is expected to be developed on the basis of data received from sensors. It will be developed to support a complete situational awareness that can evaluate actual situations and learn to recognise hazards.

The third algorithm will be designed to enable autonomous vessels to avoid situational hazards.

As part of the research, RH Marine will work together with Dutch maritime research institute MARIN to improve the safety of unmanned self-propelled vessels.

The research is led by Belgium’s KU Leuven and is part of the greater European project, Safer Autonomous Systems (SAS).

MIRA, Bosch, Airbus, Jaguar, and Lloyd’s Register are also involved in the research and have received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

“What we are going to research in the coming years is how to sail in a safe way entirely autonomously.”

RH Marine portfolio manager Marcel Vermeulen said: “We are already developing complex systems for the naval, dredging, offshore, and superyacht sector.

“Our future goal is to enable our customer’s vessels to sail autonomously. By participating in SAS, we can make significant strides in that ambition.”

The main objective of the SAS project is to establish confidence in terms of the safety of autonomous sailing.

Vermeulen further added: “With this project, Europe can take the lead. We already have the technology to operate ships remotely, so that they can sail unmanned. What we are going to research in the coming years is how to sail in a safe way entirely autonomously.”

A PhD student will be appointed to work on the three algorithms with RH Marine.