New research project to investigate sensor fusion and collision avoidance for advanced ships

The Department of Engineering Cybernetics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is leading a new knowledge-building project that will study collision avoidance for advanced ships. The AUTOSEA project is sponsored by the Research Council of Norway with DNV GL, Kongsberg Maritime and Maritime Robotics as industry partners.

The maritime industry has seen an increasing focus on safety and reliability over many decades. Still the accident and casualty rates are high compared to other industries and numerous studies indicate that the majority of these accidents are caused by human error. Recent advances in self-driving cars and other autonomous systems have shown that it is possible to achieve a high degree of situation awareness and autonomy by using advanced sensor technology in combination with cleverly designed algorithms. The use of these technologies on oceangoing vehicles, while keeping the human in the loop, could be an important step in reducing these types of accidents.

The AUTOSEA project intends to focus on automated situation awareness using sensor fusion to reduce the risk of collisions when an increased level of autonomy is introduced. To improve detection capabilities also on small objects and better cover the close-range sector, the AUTOSEA project will, in addition to conventional maritime radar, include sensor types not normally used for such purposes in the maritime sector, like camera, infrared and LIDAR. 

In order for the technology to be successful, it will be necessary to resolve conflicts between sensors and to interpret and support decisions in situations of ambiguity. Vessels with an increased degree of autonomy also need to comply with maritime anti-collision regulations (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea / COLREGs). 

“The last decade has witnessed substantial progress towards increased autonomy both for land vehicles, aerial vehicles, and underwater vehicles. However, ocean surface vehicles represent a different context and more complex challenges that require substantial research,” explains Edmund Brekke, Associate Professor at the NTNU’s Department of Engineering Cybernetics. “The primary objective of the research project is to gain competence and knowledge of multi-sensor data fusion, in order to provide a solid foundation for the qualification of autonomous marine technology.”

The project is divided into four areas: sensor fusion, collision avoidance, system architecture and experiments. Sensor fusion involves the detection and tracking of moving objects during navigation and manoeuvring using imaging sensors, while collision avoidance will investigate both proactive and reactive methods. Systems architecture will consider reliability, handling of erroneous data and the adaptation of strategies from the automotive and aerospace industries. Experiments will be used to validate and demonstrate COLREGs-compliant navigation and control and assessing detection capabilities using different sensors. 

“Our vision is to attain world-leading competence and knowledge in the design and verification of sensor fusion and collision avoidance for advanced ships and vehicles in maritime operations,” adds Thor Hukkelås, Principal Engineer Marine Operations at Kongsberg Maritime. “There is a great potential for increased efficiency and safety in many operations by using autonomy to support humans working and living in challenging ocean space.”

“This project will lead to technology and methodology that will increase cost-efficiency and safety in maritime surface operations”, says Vegard Evjen Hovstein, CEO of Maritime Robotics. “Simple, repetitive and sometimes dangerous maritime surface operations could benefit from more automation, with humans supervising and monitoring that the overall safety is maintained.”

“The project will provide a solid foundation for independent third-party verification of situation awareness and collision avoidance technology. It aims to increase the knowledge of and awareness for using autonomy in our industry among regulators and members of user groups. We also expect that the project’s results will be of interest beyond the maritime industry”, concludes Øystein Engelhardtsen, Senior Researcher at DNV GL.

Project partners:

About NTNU

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is Norway's primary institution for educating the researchers, scientists and engineers. NTNU's research is cutting edge, and many of the technological and cultural innovations that allow Norway to extract oil from the North Sea, grow healthy salmon in fish farms, or interpret the country's 9.000 years of human history have been developed here.  

About Kongsberg Maritime 

Kongsberg Maritime is a global marine technology company providing innovative and reliable technology solutions for all marine industry sectors including merchant, offshore, subsea and naval. Headquartered in Kongsberg, Norway, the company has manufacturing, sales and service facilities in 20 countries. Kongsberg Maritime is part of Kongsberg Gruppen (KONGSBERG), an international, knowledge-based group that celebrated 200 years in business during 2014. 

About Maritime Robotics

Maritime Robotics provides products and systems solutions for Unmanned Vehicle Systems for maritime data acquisition. With its main office in Trondheim, Norway, the company is now internationally promoting and delivering 3 product groups of unmanned vehicle systems: Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), Moored Balloon System (MBS) and Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The main markets are within applications for environmental monitoring, geophysical data acquisition and defence/security.

About DNV GL – Maritime

DNV GL is the world’s leading classification society and a recognized advisor for the maritime industry. We enhance safety, quality, energy efficiency and environmental performance of the global shipping industry – across all vessel types and offshore structures. We invest heavily in research and development to find solutions, together with the industry, that address strategic, operational or regulatory challenges.

For further details contact: 

Edmund Førland Brekke
Tel: +47 73594382
Mobile: +47 92405873

Per Wiggo Richardsen
Communications Director
DNV GL, Research & Innovation
Phone: +47 90 77 78 29