Tallink Grupp vessel joins research project for autonomous ships

Tallink Grupp vessel joins research project for autonomous ships
Tallink Megastar. Image courtesy of AS Tallink Grupp

Tallink Grupp is teaming up with maritime start-up Fleetrange and researchers from the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute and Aalto University to test techniques for autonomous navigation.

Sensors will be installed on Tallink Grupp’s Megastar and data will be collected from visual images, environmental sound recordings, RADAR and LiDAR ranging, satellite navigation, and vessel transponders. The data will be processed by using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The goal is to automatically identify and recognise objects, such as navigation aids and other vessels and boats around the ship and provide improved situational awareness information through sensor fusion.

Megastar will be used for practical field tests on the Helsinki-Tallinn route on the Baltic Sea.

The project is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is titled Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning Sensor Fusion for Autonomous Vessel Navigation (Maritime AI-NAV). ESA’s overall objective is to improve European know-how in the field of autonomous transports and to study how European space-based positioning and navigation infrastructure, such as Galileo and EGNOS, can contribute to enhancing scientific innovation and consequently business opportunities in this field.

Dr. Sarang Thombre, research manager, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, said: “A single sensor is never sufficient for providing complete safety-critical information to the crew. They always refer to multiple devices providing overlapping information so that defects in any one device can be easily identified and excluded. An autonomous navigation system should work on a similar principle.”

“When such information is combined with established vessel navigation rules and regulations, it can potentially enable the vessel to navigate with minimal human guidance even in dense traffic conditions of the Baltic Sea”, added research manager Thombre.