Satellite constellation operator Iridium Communications has signed a letter of intent with Rolls-Royce Marine in support of its autonomous vessel development programme.
The two companies will now explore the integration of Iridium’s next-generation L-band satellite service, Iridium Certus, into Rolls-Royce’s growing suite of ship intelligence solutions. The partnership aims to equip Rolls-Royce with reliable broadband capability that can serve as backup or a standalone option, thereby expanding the operational reach of autonomous vessels.
Remote and autonomous ships rely on a large number of onboard sensors and cameras to transmit voyage information to operators onshore. In June 2017, Rolls-Royce demonstrated the world’s first remotely-operated vessel, a tug known as Svitzer Hermod, in Copenhagen Harbour. In the exercise, the vessel performed a number of remotely controlled manoeuvres, which were executed by a pilot in the company’s shore-based “remote operations centre.”
“Iridium’s new interconnected Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network is able to provide global coverage with low latencies for both coastal and ocean going vessels, while at the same time having the robustness of the L-band,” says says Kenneth Solberg, technical product manager, Ship Intelligence, Rolls-Royce Marine. “And being an actor with truly global coverage, including polar regions, vessel owners will have the confidence that wherever they sail their ship, it will stay connected.”
Iridium operates the world's largest and only pole-to-pole, mobile commercial satellite constellation. The network is comprised of 66 crosslinked low earth orbit satellites that blanket the planet with satellite connectivity. The company’s new Certus multi-service platform will be powered by its $3bn NEXT satellite constellations and will enable high quality voice capabilities, as well as enterprise-grade broadband functionality, for the entire planet.
"Enabling the digitalization of shipping is at the core of our strategy for our maritime business, and we are proud to begin exploring this opportunity with Rolls-Royce Marine," said Wouter Deknopper, vice president and general manager, Maritime at Iridium. "Iridium's constellation is an ideal network to support autonomous vessels, due to its inherent resiliency, mobility and truly global coverage.”