Shipping by drone: the future of seafaring?

Posted by Thibaud Porcher on 12 May 2016 | Comments

The drone revolution could have a huge impact on the logistics and freight industry. Amazon has already successfully tested an automated drone delivery service. After driverless cars, which are expected to drive soon in our streets, it’s the British engineering group Rolls Royce that wants transport freight and goods across the seas operated by remote control so crewless cargo ships.


Shipping by drone the future of seafaring


“The idea of a remote-controlled ship is not new, it has been around for decades but the difference is the technology now exists,” insisted its vice-president of innovation, engineering and technology, Oskar Levander, while unveiling new concept boat designs. “It is happening in other industries so it is only logical that it should happen in marine.”

Significant cost savings and fewer accidents are enough reasons to entice the industry to continue to work on the project. By getting rid of on-board accommodation such as cabins, kitchen, bathroom, heating, food and water supplies the ship will have more space and consequently reduce fuel consumption. Besides, camera technology could be far superior than the human eye in some situations such as foggy or rainy weather.

Nevertheless, drone cargo ships face their own obstacles as dysfunction or breakdown, including inordinately complex international maritime laws. However, how will we protect automatic-cargo from pirates? Drones technology, again! There are now drone boats designed specifically to ward off sea-pirates. For instance the United States uses unmanned surveillance planes to hunt down off pirates the East coast African for years.

In this futuristic vision of seafaring, captains would be relocated to control centers, using cameras to drive a fleet of cargos. Would sailors also be motivated with the new working arrangement? We can be skeptical about that.


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