Self-learning solution helps boost engine performance & optimise maintenance

Self-learning solution helps boost engine performance & optimise maintenance
The live engine performance dashboard on Datum Hawk displays all the current data regarding the vessel’s speed (rpm), power (MW), torque (kNm) and fuel consumption (ton/hr).

A new artificially intelligent shaft condition monitoring system by Datum Electronics is helping shipowners and operators to enhance fuel efficiency and optimise maintenance by providing precise real-time analysis of each individual cylinder of an engine from the dynamic torque signature. In this week’s spotlight, we find out more.

The new solution is known as Datum Hawk and uses state of the art electronics and software to dynamically measure and profile torque data of an engine at a record rate of 2,000 samples per second.

This advance in condition monitoring is expected to bring new levels of predictive maintenance to ship operations, helping to minimise wear and tear, downtime, and ensure optimal engine performance, which contributes to lower fuel consumption, fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and ultimately helps to achieve lower operating costs.

Condition monitoring 24/7

Badly maintained and under-performing engines result in greater fuel consumption and increased emissions, while reducing overall efficiency and lifespan. This is turn costs more money and increases the risk of a catastrophic engine failure.

“Monitoring key engines parameters is vital to assessing engine conditions, which can optimise the maintenance strategy, reduce downtime and emissions,” said Konstantinos Tsitsilonis, lead marine project engineer at Datum Electronics who gave a presentation during a webinar hosted by Datum Electronics in early June.

Datum Hawk is an intelligent, self-learning solution that monitors and analyses the profile of each individual cylinder of an engine or diesel generator and identifies specific changes within them. Datum Hawk enables live monitoring of the engine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, delivering data that is simple to interpret and display.

Datum Hawk displays key features indicating engine and cylinder performance including:

Live Engine Performance

The live engine performance dashboard displays all the current data regarding the vessel’s speed (rpm), power (MW), torque (kNm) and fuel consumption (ton/hr).


When combined with Fuel Flow Meters, Datum Hawk can display real-time Specific Fuel Oil Consumption (SFOC) (g/kWh), essential data for optimal vessel performance. The system also shows accumulated dollars.

Historical Engine Performance

“Historical data displayed allows the user to navigate the history of various measures and compare the current torque measurements with previous measurements and following certain situations such as a major engine overhaul,” said Tsitsilonis.


The reports dashboard shows information, which includes power (MW), torque (kNm), speed (rpm) and fuel consumption (ton/hr), for a specific date. Reports can be sent between ship and shore for fleet operators and technical teams to review and can also be downloaded by crew onboard.

One of the most critical parameters suitable for continuous measurement is the instantaneous crankshaft torque. This a highly reliable and easily obtainable measurement that, when analysed, can provide insights regarding the degradation of components such a fuel injectors, cylinder liner and piston rings, and correspond those conditions to specific cylinders. Extracting information from this measurement requires an understanding of crankshaft dynamics, and the relationship between the in-cylinder pressure and the measured instantaneous crankshaft torque recorded at the flywheel.

Dr. Gerasimos Theotokatos of Strathclyde University, who was part of a collaboration with Datum Electronics and Innovate UK to develop the solution, explained: “Everything that is happening in the engine is reflected by instantaneous torque. That means that with one simple measurement, Datum Hawk is capable of extracting the information about engine components without the need of measuring the pressure in an individual cylinder. This provides an advantage of being able to identify the errors early, making maintenance significantly cheaper.”

Self-learning algorithm

One of Datum Hawk’s most interesting features is its self-learning algorithms that can identify problems, allowing engineers to see major faults before they occur.

After an initial period of data collection and analysis, software algorithms tailor the Datum Hawk system to the specific engine’s behaviour identified from millions of data captured. This results in an AI-based condition monitoring system that is self-learning by accumulating more information over time. As larger databases are obtained, enhanced algorithms are uploaded back to the system, so it is able to predict events before they occur, identifying the minutest changes and highlighting possible issues. This approach facilitates an efficient strategy of predictive maintenance as, “you start to see what’s going on in engine from first couple of weeks of collecting data,” said Tsitsilonis.

As Datum Hawk is applied to more vessels with access to greater range of data, the self-adapted algorithm continues to advance and develop and it becomes able to reconstruct the insular pressure by using the engine’s torque profile. “This approach can make available the insular pressure diagram for every cylinder at every instance, offering insight into condition of every cylinder,” said Tsitsilonis.

Recorded information is sent to the Datum Electronics HQ where a team of marine engineers and data analysts filter the data, analyse it and develop new algorithms to improve the Datum Hawk functionality to continuously improve performance and reduce costs. This allows Datum to establish a baseline as well as predict the engines torque profile and degraded or unhealthy conditions, such as clogged fuel injectors.

Datum Hawk can be coupled with the Datum Shaft Power Metre, providing the the ultimate sensor system for real-time condition-based ship monitoring. This delivers a sharply-focused preventative maintenance, facilitating time and money savings.

Datum Hawk vs traditional monitoring

Dr. Gerasimos Theotokatos at Strathclyde University explained why Datum Hawk’s monitoring of engine parameters is superior to more traditional approaches.

“In the traditional way, we measure and make typical diagnoses. So, you measure a number of performance parameters, speed, temperature etc, and cylinder pressure. This requires number of steps and measurements that cannot be taken simultaneously. By directly measuring the engine torque, we have all the info that represents the engine processes, all the physical states and engine components like cylinder, so with one single measurement we can extract all the information about engine and component condition without needing to measure each individual cylinder. This reduces maintenance and optimises the process due to reduced time to diagnose engine issues.”


Datum Hawk’s return on investment (ROI) can be as little as four weeks, according to Mark Gladdis, business development manager of Datum Electronics. Datum Hawk’s online ROI calculator allows users to identify various savings (fuel and financial) based on vessel type, average daily fuel consumption, average speed, and average annual fuel consumption. The calculator provides an average consumption and potential savings available over a two-year period.  Savings provided on the calculator are based purely on fuel savings through engine optimisation through the Datum Hawk system. This doesn’t include maintenance savings, Gladdis confirmed. He also said that the calculator is linked to current Brent crude oil prices.

A screenshot of the ROI calculator that enables users to work out their fuel and financial savings by using Datum Hawk.

The Datum Hawk solution can be applied to any type of vessel in any segment, and on any internal combustion engine, confirmed Tsitsilonis. He said that the aim is to, “generalise the system for all kinds of reciprocating internal combustion engines.”

The system is completely modular, which enables a fast turnaround of one to two weeks. Custom systems are also available. In addition, Datum Hawk was designed and developed on diesel generators, which means that it can fit into very small spaces. According to Gladdis, “The electronics can be built into the rotor band itself so we can go down to spaces as small as 100mm and we do this for thruster applications in vertical installations.”

Tsitsilonis also confirmed that the system can be integrated into existing systems onboard the ship.

For the cruise industry, optimal engine performance is absolutely essential to ensure ships are running on ships as time requirements are extremely stringent. According to Cris Crossley, World-Leading Cruise Company, the company was looking for a solution that would give them, “an early warning for us to take action as soon as practically possible to avoid major failures and make sure engines main in operation for as long as they can be.”

With tightening legislation on emissions, optimising engines to cut fuel consumption to limit CO2 emissions is vital. “We have some very hard targets with IMO and EU so we have to make sure we are always optimising engines and not using add fuel if we can be. We are hoping to make a staggering reduction in emissions – from 2008 to 2040 we want to get down by 40 per cent and to do that we need the engines to be as properly optimised as they can be,” Crossley explained.