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IGNITE project participants logosA total of £1.5 million was awarded as part of the Technology and Innovation in UK Maritime Call, an initiative by Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MARRI-UK), supported by the Department for Transport.

Solent University was awarded £164,000 to lead a £262,000 project, the Intelligent Ship Centre (IGNITE), in partnership with the international technology group Wärtsilä.

What is IGNITE (Intelligent Ship Centre) doing?

The IGNITE project is developing a scaled demonstration and training facility for remotely operated Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). Solent University is the only institution worldwide with both advanced manned model and simulation capability. Working with leading experts, Wärtsilä the IGNITE project will innovatively link the manned model and simulation centres. The project will enable complex simulation and training in real traffic interactions and high-risk manoeuvres in a safe and controlled environment.

"The IGNITE project presents a significant opportunity for research in innovative technologies that could pave the way for a safer and more sustainable future in the maritime industry," says Dr Laurie Wright, IGNITE project lead. "We have an exciting opportunity to work with Wärtsilä to deliver a world-leading research and training facility for remote and autonomous maritime technologies."

For whom is IGNITE doing this?

The IGNITE project will contribute to the development of the evidence case for the development of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), identified as a key sector trend in Maritime 2050 and the by International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The Maritime 2050 Technology and Innovation Route Map clearly identifies the role of people in the future of maritime, and articulates the UK Government’s wish to retain the valuable experience of existing seafarers, and to develop and adopt continuous education models to provide the skills required in the face of advancing technologies.

The project will provide world-leading and unique training capability and identify new curriculum areas for the development of advanced training and skills. Furthermore, IGNITE will provide facilities for safe development, testing, and training of MASS operations, including during high-risk and dangerous manoeuvres such as pilotage, and port manoeuvring. Understanding the implications of the operation of these technologies is key to helping develop a flexible and practical regulatory framework. Beyond these direct realisations the IGNITE project presents an opportunity of a safe environment for future innovative MASS technology development at a world leading facility.

What's new?

The IGNITE project will require several key innovations building on existing technologies. The scaled (typically 1:25) vessels at Solent University's ship handling centre are designed for local control, commonly utilised for pilot and master training in vessel handling and manoeuvring. Each model is scaled to an extremely high degree of accuracy to replicate the handling characteristics and the hydrodynamic properties of the real ship, with the build of each model costing between £300k-£400k. One of these models will be adapted using Wärtsilä’s cutting-edge technologies to enable remote vessel operation (Wärtsilä, 2017). The model will be equipped with full navigational control and dynamic positioning technology to enable complex interactions and manoeuvres replicating leading real-world MASS vessels. Remote operation of the vessel will be provided through a class A full mission bridge located at Solent University's maritime simulation centre, ten miles away, closely replicating likely shore-side control scenarios.

To achieve this solution the existing Wärtsilä simulation and automation API utilised at the maritime simulation centre will be further developed to enable communication between the scaled model (real vessel) and the navigational simulator, with additional project specific data provision for dashboards/situation displays and analytics. This requires novel solutions to ensure realistic scaling and response between 1:1 bridge simulation and the 1:25 scaled model. Solutions will be developed to address physical scaling of the model and environmental effects, and the effects of time scaling and compression on the simulation response.

Project partners

Participant nameProfileRole in the project
Solent University Public university based in Southampton, UK. Project lead and facility, training and academic partner.
Wärtsilä International company which manufactures and services power sources and other equipment in the marine and energy markets. Technology provider and industry expert partner.

Key messages

The key messages to be communicated are:

  1. The partnership between world-leaders Solent University and Wärtsilä, funded by MarRI-UK/DfT, is developing a novel and unique testing and training facility for scaled maritime autonomous technologies. Project IGNITE will provide facilities for safe development, testing, and training of MASS operations, including during high-risk and dangerous manoeuvres such as pilotage, and port manoeuvring.
  2. Full-scale autonomous and remote-controlled ships are being developed and tested. However, significant work is required to guarantee the safety of these vessels in shared water, especially during high risk operations or dangerous navigational areas and manoeuvres. Full scale testing is expensive, fraught with legislative barriers, and failures can carry high cost. The IGNITE project will provide cost effective, and safe, testing and training facility for these technologies.
  3. The IGNITE project will address the emerging skills gap to provide solutions for the development of training and skills, highlighted as vital by the Maritime Skills Commission through the Maritime 2050 Strategy, for education in future vessel operation and for the UK to remain the global supplier of choice for maritime education and training.

Read more about the project in our news story

Read about the project in the Southern Daily Echo

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