Rolls-Royce Holdings, which counts marine propulsion among its engine and power operations, believes the technology to remotely control cargo ships is already in existence, and the company is currently working on a virtual prototype. Company officials, however, acknowledge that deploying those ships at sea is still years away.
In theory, a captain located onshore would be able to pilot many different vessels in the same way that ground-level operators currently fly unmanned military drones. A network of computers and sensors would handle other critical functions such as navigation and power management.
Proponents say the technology could make shipping much safer, in large part by taking human error out of the equation.
That could draw considerable interest following the September disappearance of a massive cargo ship in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin.
The technology, however, would likely meet the same regulatory concerns — including hacking and cyberattacks — currently facing autonomous automobiles.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Would self-driving "drone ships" make cargo transportation safer, or could communication problems create new risks?
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