The Business Times

Rolls-Royce's drone ship pitch awash in industry doubt

Published Mon, Sep 15, 2014 · 04:09 AM
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[NEW YORK] In an age of aerial drones and driverless cars, Rolls-Royce Holdings is designing unmanned cargo ships.

Rolls-Royce's Blue Ocean development team has set up a virtual reality prototype at its office in Alesund, Norway, that simulates 360-degree views from a vessel's bridge. Eventually, the London-based manufacturer of engines and turbines says, captains on dry land will use similar control centres to command hundreds of crewless ships.

Drone ships would be safer, cheaper and less polluting for the US$375 billion shipping industry that carries 90 per cent of world trade, Rolls-Royce says. They might be deployed in regions such as the Baltic Sea within a decade, while regulatory hurdles and industry and union scepticism about cost and safety will slow global adoption, said Oskar Levander, the company's vice-president of innovation in marine engineering and technology.

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