Drone use is expanding everywhere. Military outfits are using them, personal drones are taking off and companies like Amazon have plans to use them to make deliveries. But can they deliver something a little larger than the latest book by your favourite author? That’s the question that Rolls-Royce is asking, according to a report from Bloomberg, and the company – via their Blue Ocean dev team – is looking at making drones able to carry large amounts of cargo across oceans.
The report states that Rolls-Royce has already started on the initiative, with a virtual reality command center having been constructed in Alesund, Norway, that simulates what a ship captain would see from a normal ocean-going vessel’s bridge. The plan is, eventually, to have ship captains control multiple drones from similar remote command centers around the world but the timeline for something like this is some time in the next ten years.
Rolls-Royce vice president of innovation in marine engineering and technology Oskar Levander is reported to have said “Now the technology is at the level where we can make this happen, and society is moving in this direction. If we want marine to do this, now is the time to move.”
This ambitious plan to send unmanned vessels around the world isn’t without its real-world obstacles, quite aside from getting the technology to work. Insurance companies, among other groups (like those representing the crew that is usually aboard), presently believe that drone ships would be unfeasible from both cost and safety perspectives. Uncrewed vessels are also illegal at present but that’s something that the International Chamber of Shipping would have to look into. The apparent advantages of such a system are greater cargo payloads, reduced fuel costs and possibly even piracy reduction, since there will be no hostages available if a ship is boarded and it’s hard to take control of a ship when the bridge is half an ocean away.