Innovation That Matters

Autonomous ships | Photo source Pixabay

China sets up world's largest test zone for autonomous ships


Unmanned surface vehicles for autonomous cargo shipping are being tested in the South China Sea.

A conglomerate of organizations in China is working together to create the world’s largest unmanned surface vehicle (USV) test zone. And sea-going vessel design company Oceanalpha recently introduced the unmanned Cloudborne. Together, they are part of China’s dedicated development of autonomous shipping vehicles. The marine test site is outside Zhuhai in Guangdong province. The local government is working with the China Classification Society, the Wuhan University of Technology, and Oceanalpha. Unmanned shipping vehicles could save millions of dollars in staff wages and healthcare. Experts believe that ship captains will relocate from the world’s oceans to smart, automated, connected command centers.

USVs are also being developed with sustainability in mind. A reduction in cruising speed from 16 to 11 knots could hugely reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Analysts believe that slower ships use 54 percent less fuel. Without crew on board, slightly longer journeys will not accrue increased staff costs. Maritime law, like much of the world’s statutes, is amending its rules to take into account driverless vehicles. For now, China’s test site will focus on research and development and provide space to test vehicles in situ. Tests of Cloudborne prioritize its ability to avoid obstacles and capability to communicate with remote management teams. The site also plans to provide national and international accreditation and regulations.

Almost all areas of life, from taxis to trash collection, are testing drone usage. In New Zealand, an autonomous drone passenger plane is currently seeking approval to carry passengers. Its small size and ability to take off vertically makes the drone perfect for short trips within cities and towns. In Chicago, a remote-controlled, garbage-collecting robot allows gamers worldwide to do their bit in cleaning up the city’s river. How could unmanned vehicles for personal use help make some of life’s regular occurring chores less time consuming?



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