The research project ORCAS develops new technological solutions for online risk management and risk control of autonomous ships. The research in the project is interdisciplinary and connects the disciplines of cybernetics and risk management where the goal is to achieve a high degree of intelligence and decision-making ability for autonomous ships.
Autonomous ships are expected to improve safety and efficiency and reduce the environmental impact at sea. Reduced human operator intervention, and the gradual absence of personnel on board, makes it important to develop a sufficient situation awareness both for the autonomous ship and for the operators on land.
The advanced technical systems on board, the operations, and the interactions in a demanding environment can increase couplings, complexity and hazards that are difficult to identify, analyze and control. High risk of autonomous ships will not be accepted by the authorities and society in general, which means that it is necessary to develop risk reduction measures and efficient risk control.
ORCAS focuses in particular on developing safe and smarter automatic sailing systems and power and propulsion systems that are able to detect, verify, monitor, control, and follow up deviations and potential hazards to improve the situation awareness and decision-making ability of the autonomous ship.
The maritime industry is subject to a technology and business transition towards increased level of autonomy enabling lower manning or unmanned ships supported by onshore operational centres. The main drivers may be associated with reduced construction and operational cost, as well as improved safety and environmental impact. This project will develop novel technological solutions for online (real-time) risk management and risk control of autonomous ships. Cutting-edge interdisciplinary research aims to achieve high level of autonomy, intelligence and decision making capabilities for autonomous ships. The goal is to enhance the realization of autonomous ships by developing safer and smarter automatic sailing systems and power and propulsion control systems that are able to detect, perceive, verify, monitor, control and follow-up deviations and potential hazards.
Complex power and propulsion systems will be installed in autonomous ships. Advanced control systems introduce new types of failures, due to unforeseen interlocks in system design and functionality. If personnel are not onboard to operate, the ship needs to have safe and reliable onboard systems with high availability to be able to maneuover safely in the seaway. Shutting down and remobilizing the ship operation due to hazards caused by automatic or autonomous systems, including false alarms, are not economically viable, nor acceptable from a risk perspective. If sufficient system integrity cannot be ensured, highly autonomous and unmanned ships will not be realized on a broader scale.
The knowledge building in the project will be decisive for the realization of autonomous ships. Specifically, the research results will lead to improved automatic sailing systems and power and propulsion control systems through the integration of risk modelling, machine learning, simulation, and verification of safe responses with optimization-based model predictive control (MPC).