Robotics after its entry and influence in the field of car and aircraft design as well as manufacturing has now made a mark in the shipping industry. Yes, a group of researchers at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a technology for autonomous ships which could be a great stepping stone in the global supply network. This opens up a market for cheaply-manufactured goods from Asian countries to the Western countries.
The newly designed and developed boats are called as USVs or Unmanned Surface Vessels to establish a difference from unmanned submarines which may also come as a reality venture. The outcome of this extraordinary robotic ships was a response to a competition ‘Maritime RobotX Challenge’ conducted by the US Office of Naval Research in 2014. The main focus of the defence agencies to bring this robotic ships was concerned with the reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The entrants who took part in this competition were asked to complete five trick missions. As a result the Korean team won the second position behind a team from MIT.
Rolls Royce has already shown acute interest in the development of an automated vessel and is also leading an autonomous ship research project. This is an indication that drone freighters would be a safe and efficient option for the shipping industry to carry goods around the world at feasible prices when compared to the traditional cargo ship.
At present the Korean team has been testing the drone boats just off the coast. Some of the key objectives that suits the industry expectations are operational safety, fuel efficiency and reduced labor cost. It is likely that humans may be replaced by these drone ships in one or two decades.