Japanese ship operator NYK and its group companies MTI, Keihin Dock, and Japan Marine Science. (JMS) report having obtained useful results in a second test of the remote navigation of a tugboat. The test was carried out as a part of the Japanese government’s Sea Trial Project on Remote Control Navigation for the realisation of autonomous ships by 2025.
The test was done within Tokyo Bay, a manned tugboat equipped with a remotely controlled system was operated remotely from the operation centre in the city of Nishinomiya in Hyogo prefecture approximately 400km away.
In the previous test in January this year, the operator in the remote operation centre used sensors and cameras installed on the tugboat to recognise surrounding conditions, create a route plan and action plan (collision avoidance route plan) for the remote control. In this second testing two tests to respond to malfunctions of equipment or ship-shore communication were conducted.
In the first test to confirm response functions to equipment malfunctions or interruptions of ship-shore communication signals were sent remotely to the ship to stop as quickly as possible, and automatically navigate at a reduced speed until the next waypoint.
The second test was to confirm the optimisation function of data communication amount depending on the available communication bandwidth for remote control. To ensure stable remote manoeuvring, the amount of communication needs to be automatically adjusted. For that reason, the transferring data amount of radar echo should be controlled according to available communication bandwidth so that it does not affect other data transmissions. For remote control, it is necessary to monitor the position of the ship and nearby obstacles in real time, and communication interruption due to communication overload has to be avoided so that confirmation of this communication optimisation function is indispensable.
NYK and its group companies say they will continue to improve the system using the accumulated knowledge from the two remote navigation tests and will collaborate with partners to realise remote control of large vessels. In addition, they will disseminate and develop the technologies for autonomous ships with crews and crewless autonomous ships that they are working on.