MEGURI2040 autonomous ship project to begin phase two

The MEGURI2040 autonomous vessel project in Japan, administered by the Nippon Foundation Orca AI, is to continue its collaboration with Israeli tech company Orca AI as it enters the second development stage of the programme.

Orca AI will partner with NYK Group subsidiary MTI, alongside sister entity Japan Marine Science Inc, to lead the Designing the Future of Fully Autonomous Ships Plus (DFFAS+) consortium, comprising 51 Japan-based companies that will work together on the next phase.

MEGURI2040’s fully autonomous navigation programme was launched in 2020 with the aim to reach full-scale commercialisation of fully autonomous ship technology by 2025.

The first phase of MEGURI2040 culminated in May 2022 with the successful autonomous trial voyage of the 749-gt NYK shortsea containership Suzaku in congested waters off Japan’s east coast. Equipped with Orca AI’s automated watchkeeper, to replace the human lookout, the vessel achieved 40 hours of navigation with complete autonomy, or around 98% of the voyage between Tokyo Bay and the port of Tsumatsusaka in Ise Bay.

Data from the integrated display was live streamed to the fleet operations centre in Tokyo, with the ship performing 107 collision avoidance manoeuvres and avoiding up to 500 other vessels en route.

“Following the successful completion of the DFFAS project, we continue to develop autonomous navigational capabilities on the journey towards full autonomy,” said Dr Hideyuki Ando, Director of MTI.

“Orca AI’s advanced AI and computer vision technology have already proven to be key enablers of the safety of autonomous navigation, and we look forward to leveraging this cutting-edge technology in the DFFAS+ project.”

MEGURI2040 Phase Two will focus on demonstrating ship-shore operations using four different vessel types including a newly built container ship equipped with a fully autonomous operation system, an existing container ship, Ro-Ro vessel, and remote island route ship equipped for partial autonomous operations, as well as two fleet operation centres.

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