Rolls-Royce Unveils Autonomous Naval Vessel Featuring Electric Propulsion

Tuesday September 12, 2017

Rolls-Royce plc (Rolls-Royce) has announced plans for an autonomous, single role, naval vessel that will feature electric propulsion.

"Rolls-Royce is seeing interest from major navies in autonomous, rather than remote controlled, ships. Such ships offer a way to deliver increased operational capability, reduce the risk to crew and cut both operating and build costs," said Benjamin Thorp, Rolls-Royce, General Manager Naval Electrics, Automation and Control.

"Over the next 10 years or so, Rolls-Royce expects to see the introduction of medium sized unmanned platforms, particularly in leading navies, as the concept of mixed manned and unmanned fleets develops. With our experience and capabilities we expect to lead the field."

The initial design features a full electric propulsion system and features two Rolls-Royce MTU 4000 Series gensets to provide approximately 4MW electrical power to a 1.5MW propulsion drive.

"An alternative to diesel engines could be small gas turbines, further improving the system’s reliability and reducing onboard maintenance," explained Rolls-Royce.

"To reduce fuel consumption and extend operational range an additional 3000 kWh of energy storage will facilitate efficient low speed loiter operations and the vessel will also be fitted with photovoltaic solar panels to generate power when the vessel is on standby."

The company notes that, with an absence of crew, autonomous vessels increases the need for reliable power and propulsion systems.

In response, Rolls-Royce says the vessel will utilise a suite of autonomous support tools, including Energy Management, Equipment Health Monitoring, and predictive and remote maintenance to ensure vessel availability.

As Ship & Bunker has previously reported, Rolls-Royce estimates by doing away with the infrastructure necessary for humans on a ship, such vessels could see bunker consumption reduced by 15 percent.