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Royal IHC and MARIN complete DP testing on autonomous SOV

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MARIN and Royal IHC have completed the T60-18 service operation vessel (SOV) dynamic positioning (DP) assessment tests at MARIN’s basins in Wageningen, The Netherlands, marking an significant milestone in the autonomous SOV project.

IHC has developed technology for the project (partly funded by a subsidy from TKI Wind Op Zee), which will enable one of its SOVs to safely maneuver through an offshore wind farm and provide access to the turbines.

The operations will be carried out by the autonomous software of the vessel, while under the supervision of the wheelhouse duty officer.

The DP evaluation was the final set of model tests for the vessel following the powering and seakeeping tests, which will provide data for the ship models in the autonomous SOV simulator of IHC. At the same time, the tests have shown the SOV’s motion characteristics and position-keeping capabilities, as well as the DPS from IHC.

A simulator that incorporates all the autonomous vessel’s operating systems will be in service once the project is completed in December 2020. The simulator will then be used to demonstrate system feasibility and the efficiencies of the benchmark.

Through improving safety, increasing workability, and reducing operating expenses, the introduction of the autonomous SOV is expected to result in a substantial reduction of the offshore wind farm’s operation and maintenance costs.

A next phase of the project will focus on the further development of the autonomous navigation and control functionality. This project provides an excellent case in demonstrating the full potential of an autonomous functionality in an operational setting. The challenges lie not only in the development of this functionality but also in the validation and testing of the whole system in order to prove its robustness against malfunctioning sensors and subsystems.

In addition, a validated simulation environment – with the ability to interface with the DPS and other automation systems – provides the opportunity to safely test the vessel to its limits and beyond. The follow-up to this project will present many opportunities for IHC and MARIN to jointly explore the challenges that lie ahead.”

Egbert Ypma, MARIN’s team-lead autonomy & decision support.

We are pleased with the results of these tests at MARIN’s basins and the cooperation between both organisations was exceptional. We tested the vessel’s seakeeping behavior and position keeping in challenging environmental conditions similar to central North Sea with 3 to 3.5 meter significant wave height. These tests have given us great insight in the performance of the vessel and IHC DP system and gives us confidence to build SOVs capable of operating in these conditions.

The autonomous operation is one of the unique features of our SOV, and has been in development for several years. The results will be implemented into our autonomous SOV simulator model, with which we want to show the vessel in action to industry stakeholders. Moreover, we can then take the next steps towards the development of an autonomously operating SOV as a prototype.”

Jeroen Hollebrands, IHC’s product manager.
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