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Unmanned ships of the future

The European Union project MUNIN (Maritime Unmanned Navigation through intelligence in Networks) is studying the possibilities of realising a completely unmanned ship by looking at the need for new sensor systems, improved maintenance methods, legislation, environmental friendliness, communications and shore support functions.

At the half-way mark, the project has come to the conclusion that there are no fundamental obstacles, but that a good deal of development work will have to be done. From the very start of the project, SINTEF has been actively involved in MUNIN, among other aspects as technical coordinator.

SINTEF's main areas of focus are maintenance strategy and communications systems, and we are studying whether new maintenance strategies based on improved technical and performance indices could make it possible to operate technical systems for as long as three to four weeks without supervision or maintenance. Reliable satellite communication will be essential if shore-based support personnel are to be able to provide support in the event that on-board automated systems are not capable of solving operational problems. At the same time, communications will need to be restricted in order to avoid excessive costs. Providing security against hostile signal blocking and intrusion into communications channels will be another critical element.

Besides SINTEF Ocean, MUNIN's international industrial and academic partners include the Fraunhofer Center for Maritime Logistics and Services, Hochschule Wismar, MarineSoft, Marorka, University College of Cork, Chalmers University of Technology and the Trondheim company Aptomar.

Key Factors

Project start