The future of cargo transportation will be autonomous, according to Rolls-Royce, which has revealed plans for a remote-controlled, unmanned ship that could take to the seas as early as 2020.
The Rolls-Royce-led Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA), which brings together university researchers, ship designers and equipment manufacturers, has been testing the technology in Finland.
Rolls-Royce says autonomous ships will be safer and cheaper to operate, with more room for cargo. The European Union has funded a $4 million project to develop the concept and in 2014 shipping research firm DNV GL unveiled designs for a crewless cargo vessel.
Earlier this year, the US launched its first self-driving warship. Christened Sea Hunter, the prototype is unarmed, but is capable of patrolling the surface of the world’s oceans for up to three months at a time – without a crew, and without being controlled remotely.