The European Space Agency (ESA) and Rolls-Royce have signed a memorandum of intent as the two agree to investigate how space technology can be used to develop autonomous ships.
The partners will use their space technology expertise to analyse and implement space-enabled services for autonomous and remote-controlled shipping, which reduces the opportunity for human error and allows crews to concentrate on more valuable tasks.
The plan is to study the applications of various space assets to autonomous shipping, such as satellite-based positioning, better situational awareness using Earth observation data, and sitcom services for improved onboard connectivity.
ESA Director General Jan Wörner said: “Space technology provides tangible benefits for the citizens of Europe. Partnerships, such as this one with Rolls-Royce, take solutions originally developed for the unique challenges of the space environment and bring them down to Earth … this partnership between ESA and Rolls-Royce will enable satellites to serve ship intelligence, marine operations, navigation, cargo logistics, maritime safety, healthcare, passenger and crew communications.”
Space technology collaboration
The collaboration with the Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence division aims to develop and validate new ship-to-shore integrated land-based and satellite-based systems space technology solutions, which ESA has been working on for some time under its Satellite for 5G (S45G) initiative.
S45G aims at developing and demonstrating integrated space technology and terrestrial based 5G services, across multiple markets.
ESA is supporting the technological and supply chain evolutions that are required to weave together terrestrial and space technology services, with a focus on the transport sector (maritime, aviation and land base), and on other vertical markets like public safety and media.
This combined space-and-ground service is what will enable the operation of commercial autonomous shipping, as well as drive innovation in future commercial marine vessels, cargo logistics and smart ports.
Future Rolls-Royce navigation and telecommunication equipment will be able to be tested at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands, capitalising on the centre’s space-grade facilities.