A UK government-funded study on navigational requirements for autonomous maritime vessels has examined the potential development of ‘Smart Chart’ systems, incorporating data such as radio signals, regulations, tides and foundation navigational data into electronic navigational charts to assist navigation by autonomous systems.
The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) worked together with partner organisations L3 ASV and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on the project, which aimed to identify the future data requirements for autonomous shipping, and explore how navigational and wider geospatial data can be used to enable the safe navigation of unmanned autonomous vessels.
The study, funded by the UK Department for Transport’s Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant (T-TRIG), started by exploring the characteristics of current navigational data and charts in terms of what they comprise, their structure and how they are updated. It then examined how these data sets could be repurposed to develop a prototype that can be interpreted by a computer without the use of an onboard crew.
“A wealth of marine geospatial data, from bathymetry depicting the seafloor to the speed and direction of the tides, supports navigation across our oceans,” said Mark Casey, Head of Research, Innovation and Integration at the UKHO.
“For over 200 years, the UKHO has sourced, processed and supplied this information to shipping and defence to help keep mariners safe at sea. We have developed our expertise in sourcing and processing this location-based information to help others better understand the marine environment.”
“With our expertise and knowledge of data required for safe navigation, we are well placed to help our partners identify the data requirements and standards needed to support the use of autonomous vessels of the future.”