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Inmarsat spawns new GX hybrid service for Rolls-Royce autonomous ships

Inmarsat spawns new GX hybrid service for Rolls-Royce autonomous ships
Inmarsat is to bring its newly-completed Global Xpress (GX) service to bear on the EUR6.6m ($7.3m) Rolls-Royce-led Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative (AAWA).

Up until now, limitations in data transfer between ships have proven a serious bottleneck for the development of an autonomous vessel, with a lack of on-board crew necessitating a constant satellite connection with onshore decision-makers to ensure a safe operation.

To address this, Inmarsat will use its Fleet Xpress service, a world-first hybrid of Ka-and-L-band services. The latter will be used as a failsafe to plug the gaps in the former, whether in areas where Ka-band is subject to rain fade or where no coverage exists, such as the polar regions. For a more detailed explanation of rain fade read here.

“Fleet Xpress will enable the ship-to-shore communications required to support the remote control functionality fundamental to the realisation of the autonomous ship,” said Ronald Spithout, president of Inmarsat Maritime. “The high-performance, high-throughput network will open up unlimited possibilities for maritime applications and real-time monitoring and analysis of data, for smarter shipping today and the future,”

Head of Rolls-Royce Blue Ocean Team Esa Jokioinen, commented: “The wide-ranging project will look at research carried out to date, before exploring the business case for autonomous applications, the safety and security implications of designing and operating remotely operated ships, the legal and regulatory implications and the existence and readiness of a supplier network able to deliver commercially applicable products in the short to medium term.

“The technological work stream will be led by Rolls-Royce and encompass expertise from across a range of world-leading capabilities within the marine market. We are pleased to have partners, such as Inmarsat, as part of that team, enabling us to take the first concrete steps towards making remote controlled and autonomous ship applications a reality.”