IHC and MARIN reach milestone in autonomous SOV project

© Royal IHC

Royal IHC and MARIN reached a milestone last week when they successfully completed the last phase of model testing in their autonomous service operation vessel (SOV) project.

Royal IHC (IHC) and MARIN are working together on developing an autonomous SOV which should lead to improved (time) efficiency.

IHC has developed technology that will allow one of its SOVs, the T60-18, to navigate safely through an offshore wind farm and provide access to the turbines. A validated Mission Master, i.e. a ‘virtual captain’ will enable the SOV to perform a set of tasks in a wind farm safely and autonomously while being supervised by human operators.

An integrated approach is being used, incorporating the dynamic positioning system (DPS), the motion-compensated gangway and vessel movements. This integrated approach to the SOV design and mission equipment hould lead to improved safety, increased workability and reduced operational expenses.

The autonomous operation is one of the unique features of our SOV, and has been in development for several years, and based on extensive input from industry stakeholders. The project is part-funded by a subsidy from TKI Wind Op Zee.

Model tests
The model tests took place at MARIN’s basins in Wageningen and consisted of a powering,  seakeeping and dynamic positioning (DP) assessment. For the tests, challenging environmental conditions similar to central North Sea with 3 to 3.5 meter significant wave height were simulated. The tests have proven the motion characteristics and position keeping capabilities of the SOV, as well as IHC’s DPS.

The results will be implemented into the ship model in IHC’s autonomous SOV simulator. The simulator, encompassing all functional systems of the autonomous vessel, will be used to demonstrate the vessel in action to industry stakeholders. The simulator is expected to be completed in December 2020. A next step is to develop a prototype of an autonomously operating SOV.

Autonomous navigation and control functionality
A next phase of the project will focus on the further development of the autonomous navigation and control functionality. Egbert Ypma, MARIN’s team-lead Autonomy & Decision Support: “This project provides an excellent case in demonstrating the full potential of an autonomous functionality in an operational setting. The challenges lie not only in the development of this functionality but also in the validation and testing of the whole system in order to prove its robustness against malfunctioning sensors and subsystems.

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