When you think of the word drone it's probably a fair assumption that two images will pop into your head.
It's unlikely then that you'll think of a drone as a 600-feet tanker, slowly crawling over thousands of miles of ocean. Well Rolls-Royce thinks of them as just that, and so much more.
In a whitepaper released this month the company has unveiled its futuristic vision for the oceans.
Drone ships would replace the huge manned cargo vessels we see today, instead they would be controlled by a single pilot nestled thousands of miles away in a control centre.
From this central building a single team of operators would be able to remotely monitor and control hundreds of automated vessels as they intelligently travel from A to B using a mixture of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Should a ship get into any trouble the operator would be able to deploy a small UAV to remotely inspect the ship and look for signs of malfunction or trouble.
If a crew was needed however then Rolls-Royce has a solution for that too - a state-of-the-art bridge which incorporates 'Star Trek' style features such as augmented reality windows and huge futuristic control panels.
With just a crew of two, a huge vessel could be controlled thanks to the bridge's multi-function control screens. Large clear user interfaces displayed on curved screens would make anyone feel like they were controlling the next generation in space vessels.
Incredibly, while these images are just concepts, Rolls-Royce is actually building some of them onto ships right now.
The company has already installed its first Unified Bridge on board a ship called the Stril Luna.
The company also believes that autonomous ships will be appearing in service within just 10 years.
Speaking about these innovations Oskar Levander, Rolls-Royce, Vice President of Innovation – Marine, said: “This is happening. It’s not if, it’s when. The technologies needed to make remote and autonomous ships a reality exist."
"The AAWA project is testing sensor arrays in a range of operating and climatic conditions in Finland and has created a simulated autonomous ship control system which allows the behaviour of the complete communication system to be explored. We will see a remote controlled ship in commercial use by the end of the decade.”
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