After an autonomous trial with coastal cargo vessel Eidsvaag Pioner in Norway, Kongsberg Maritime has completed a second live trial with inland waterway barge Zulu 4 in Bornem, Belgium. The barge is equipped for remote-operated and autonomous transport demonstrations for the Autoship project, which is part of Horizon 2020.

The Zulu 4 is owned by Blue Line Logistics NV. Horizon 2020 is an EU research programme.

As part of the test, Zulu 4 manoeuvred and navigated on unrestricted waterways, and it demonstrated berthing and unberthing capability. To achieve this, the vessel was upgraded with onboard control technology, while an onshore remote operation centre (ROC) provided support. A safety crew was on board the vessel during the test.

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16.5-kilometre circuit

The Zulu 4 completed a 16.5-kilometre circuit starting from a port in Niel on the Rupel River. The vessel entered a busy sea canal before traversing locks and passing several bridges as well as a yacht club and marina.

Kongsberg technologies used in the trial included Autodocking, Autocrossing and automatic navigation systems. The company has also developed cloud-based communications systems and advanced simulations to test and ensure that the vessel operated safely and optimally.

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From situational awareness to manoeuvring in port

Under remote monitoring from the ROC, the team and vessel had to show situational awareness, engine and machinery monitoring, berthing/unberthing and manoeuvring in port. The same tasks were demonstrated under autonomous control, as well as collision avoidance, grounding avoidance, transit sailing and automatic mooring. Zulu 4 also demonstrated the ability to switch between autonomous operation and remote-controlled operation.

‘We are delighted with the performance of the Zulu 4 on what is a challenging route through the busy Belgian waterways,’ says Pål André Eriksen, Senior Vice President, Remote & Autonomous Solutions,  Kongsberg Maritime. The course that the Zulu 4 completed provided an opportunity to test our technology in a real-life situation, where numerous manoeuvres were performed successfully and safely.’

He adds: ‘The test run provides all partners within Autoship with essential experience and data, which can help us advance the adoption of remote-controlled and autonomous technology in the maritime sector. Together with last week’s successful demonstration of a coastal cargo ship in Norway, we have proved that these technologies are applicable across different vessel types and suited to a variety of operations.’

Also read: Kongsberg completes autonomous voyage with coastal cargo ship

Autoship project

This live trial of the technology follows from another demonstration of autonomous ship technology on May 25 in Alesund, Norway, in which a cargo vessel, Eidsvaag Pioner, completed a range of tasks autonomously.

Both vessels are equipped with remote and fully autonomous operation technology as part of the Autoship project, part of the EU research programme Horizon 2020. Autoship is a collaboration between Kongsberg and Norway’s leading research organisation, SINTEF, as well as several European partners.

The aim of the Autoship project is to test and develop fully autonomous navigation systems, intelligent machinery systems, self-diagnostics, prognostics and operation scheduling, as well as communication technology enabling a prominent level of cyber security and integrating the vessels into upgraded e-infrastructure.

The successful test of the Zulu 4 barge verifies the maturity of key enabling technologies and helps build the real-world data required to assure the safety and security of autonomous operations on European waterways to regulators and customers.

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