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Posted on June 12, 2017 by Dr Peter Harrop

Robot ships will be energy independent

Robotics 2016-2026
IDTechEx reports on electric boats correctly predicted the advent of autonomous electric ships. We even see them becoming energy independent using such things as solar roads as rugged decking and airborne wind energy in the form of tethered drones flying at up to 1000 meters where the winds are consistent and have four times the energy. Think megawatts for such combinations with little energy storage needed. This will be covered in the world's first conference on the subject Energy Independent Electric Vehicles at the Technical University of Delft Netherlands where so much of the science is done and so many solar boats and cars are developed. Two AWE developers and several solar developers will discuss powering ships. Many land, water and airborne vehicles will be announced that variously produce all their electric motive power from sun, wind, tide, waves, thermals and more. See some. Join the speakers and exhibitors if you have something to say.
 
Latest news is that the world's top miner BHP is seeking partners for vessel automation. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, is studying introduction of giant, automated cargo ships to carry iron ore to coal as part of a strategic shift potentially disrupting the $334 billion global shipping industry. See the IDTechEx report, "Electric Vehicles for Construction, Mining and Agriculture 2017-2027".
 
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"Safe and efficient autonomous vessels carrying BHP cargo, powered by BHP gas, is our vision for the future of dry bulk shipping," Vice President, Freight Rashpal Bhatti, wrote in a posting on its website. The company, also one of the world's largest dry bulk charterers, is seeking partners to work on technological changes in the sector, he said.
 
BHP, which charters about 1,500 voyages a year for around a quarter of a billion metric tons of iron ore, copper and coal, wants to deploy the technology within a decade. For the biggest miners, a move to crewless ships could deliver new savings in the $86 billion a year seaborne iron ore market, mirroring the shift to autonomous trucks to trains that allow fewer staff to remotely operate or monitor multiple vehicles. That is why heavyweights such as Rolls Royce are warming on the technology.
 
Deploying unmanned ships on the 10-day sea journey from Australia's northern coast to China would be a logical extension of technology that runs from mines and ports and allows producers to jump to specific customer demands, Emilie Ditton, Sydney-based research director at IDC Energy Insights told Bloomberg, "There has been in the last six months a really big change in the desire of mining companies to seek out opportunities for innovation. There's a much bigger recognition that there are opportunities to innovate across the board."
 
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Work is proceeding at the International Maritime Organization too. This United Nations agency in London oversees global shipping, to consider regulation of autonomous surface ships, James Fanshawe, a former senior Royal Navy officer and chairman of the U.K.'s Maritime Autonomous Systems Regulatory Working Group, said to Bloomberg, "A meeting of IMO's maritime safety committee will consider proposals for a regulatory study on the "safe, secure and environmentally sound operation" of autonomous vessels, according to the organization's website.
 
BHP suggests that the dry bulk freight market is on the verge of pricing and liquidity reforms similar to those seen in bulk commodities markets over the last decade. The company cut freight and transportation costs by 16 percent to $2.3 billion in fiscal 2016.
 
Rio Tinto Group, which uses a fleet of about 76 driverless trucks and will fully deploy autonomous trains in Western Australia by the end of next year, sees shipping as among the next set of processes to target with innovation, its top iron ore executive Chris Salisbury told a Perth conference recently.
 
"Autonomous ships will change the way transport systems are designed and operated," Ornulf Jan Rodseth, a Trondheim, Norway-based senior scientist at Sintef, Scandinavia's biggest science and technology researcher says. If freight users, including BHP, are able to adopt the technology, "you might see that they build a new fleet of special purpose ships that puts the traditional ships and ship operators out of business," he said.
 
 
Top image: Wikimedia
Dr Peter Harrop

Authored By: Dr Peter Harrop

Chairman

Posted on: June 12th 2017