Within three years, the world’s first autonomous ship will roam the high seas, without a need for fuel or a crew. The Norwegian-built Yara Birkeland, which will launch in 2018, is expected to reduce costs by 90%. For this reason, its backers declare the $25 million price tag a worthwhile investment.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Yara Birkeland will use radar, GPS, cameras and sensors to navigate itself around boat traffic and even dock on its own. It cost about three times as much as a standard shipping container, but is unlocking a new vision of autonomous ocean travel.
The 100-container ship is being jointly developed by agriculture firm Yara International and technology company Kongsberg Gruppen. According to The Verge, it’s been dubbed the “Tesla of the Seas,” and is scheduled to start delivering fertilizer form a production facility to the port of Larvik (about 37 miles away) in late 2018.
“Yara Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation in 2019 and expected to be capable of performing fully autonomous operations from 2020,” said the company in a post on its website from May.
According to Yara’s head of production, Petter Ostbo, the company is eager to invest in bigger ships and use them for long routes once international regulations are in place for vessels without crews. “Maybe even move our fertilizer from Holland all the way to Brazil,” he said.
An additional goal is to reduce air pollutants while improving road safety by removing close to 40,000 truck journeys in populated urban areas. The emissions-free vessel will ensure this goal is realized. “We want to go zero emission,” said Ostbo. “Even if some say climate change is not reality, it’s a business reality because clean sources of energy are more affordable than fossil fuels.”
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