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Autonomous shipping

KONGSBERG is developing self-driving ship control systems for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships - MASS / unmanned ships. We are involved in a number of projects, that focus on integrated sensor technology, and automated collision avoidance. We are a key stakeholder in the world's first official autonomous vehicles test bed, and we hold the worlds first contracts for commercial delivery of an autonomous vessels.

Our portfolio of products and the way they integrate with each other to provide THE FULL PICTURE, makes us well qualified to deliver control systems for autonomous ships. We can deliver systems in compliance with the maritime anti-collision regulations (COLREGS), utilising fusion of data from our dynamic positioning and navigation, satellite and position reference, marine automation and communication systems.

The following information documents why KONGSBERG is in a unique position to deliver autonomous control systems and supporting equipment:

Control systems for autonomous ships

We pioneered radar based collision avoidance, delivering our first system back in 1969. We were the first to deliver commercially available dynamic positioning systems some 40 years ago. As the largest ship simulator manufacturer, we possess the ability to simulate and test all aspects of ship behaviour, communication and control. KONGSBERG has been and is involved in many activities needed to bring about the coming of autonomous shipping.

For the more than 15 years we have worked to make our systems seamlessly integrate to provide THE FULL PICTURE. This has giving operators of our systems better overview and safer sailing. Since we manufacture very many of the systems required for autonomous operation ourselves, this strategy is now very useful in providing autonomous ship control systems; our systems already communicate with each other and share information.

Bringing about a control system for autonomous ships is a complicated task. KONGSBERG can draw on 20 years of experience in providing autonomous underwater vehicles (about 600 systems delivered), and more than 50 years experience from a variety of missile programs. Both areas utilise advanced sensor fusion and control algorithms to create a detailed 3D map of the operational area to secure safe autonomous operation.

Our Autonomy Controller provides autonomous operation for most vessel that has an electrical interface to the engine and steering systems. For safe operations, the systems collision avoidance capability ensures that the vehicle avoids obstacles in the sea detected by its proximity sensors.

Autonomous ship projects and activities

The following lists key projects where KONGSBERG is strongly is involved. The list includes both delivery and research projects. For the delivery projects KONGSBERG will deliver all key enabling technologies including the sensors and system integration required for remote and autonomous operations. The research projects includes modular control systems and communications technology that enable wireless monitoring and control both on and off the ship. They involve advanced decision support systems with a capability to operate ships remotely under full or semi-autonomous control.

YARA Birkeland - Autonomous ship delivery project

Will be the world's first fully electric and autonomous container ship, with zero emissions. KONGSBERG is responsible for all key enabling technologies including the sensors and integration required for remote and autonomous operations, in addition to the electric drive, battery and propulsion control systems.

YARA Birkeland will initially operate as a manned vessel, moving to remote operation  before moving into fully autonomous operations.

Autonomous, zero emission and 100% electric, 'YARA Birkeland' will be the world's most advanced container feeder ship.
Model tank testing of YARA Birkeland, the worlds first autonomous zero emission container feeder.

Wilhelmsen and KONGSBERG establish world's first autonomous shipping company

Wilhelmsen and KONGSBERG are joining forces to take the next step in autonomous shipping by offering a complete value chain for autonomous ships, from design and development, to control systems, logistics services and vessel operations.

The company will offer complete solutions for autonomous ships, including design / development, control systems, logistics services and vessel operations.

Autonomous technology for ferries

Kongsberg Maritime is developing a system for automating the crossing between Horten and Moss in Norway, and for moving ferries to and from the quay. The ferry company Bastø Fosen will provide a ferry and crew to assist with the development. The initial tests of the system was done in the autumn of 2018.


A-KIT - Autonomy controller software delivery project

In 2017 we received our first order for K-MATE, our latest marine robotics innovation. K-MATE, an autonomous surface vehicle control system, was integrated with SEA-KIT, a new class of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship built by UK manufacturer, Hushcraft. SEA-KIT is a rugged, impact-safe and self-righting USV that can carry a deployable and retrievable payload of up to 2.5 tons. It is based on a unique AUV-USV concept, which will lead to more efficient, safer and cost-effective seafloor mapping operations.


In April 2019 Kongsberg Maritime unveiled a new Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). The Sounder USV System is a uniquely versatile solution designed and built to provide the highest possible standard of data acquisition. The vessel is capable of carrying out a broad range of tasks and is designed to work across different market segments, including survey and fishery duties. Operation of the USV is managed by KONGSBERG’s K-MATE autonomous surface vehicle control system: capable of following survey patterns, autonomously following AUVs or simply tracking a mothership.


Remotely-operated Fireboats for Ports

To address the evolving safety and security needs of modern ports, naval architects and marine engineers Robert Allan Ltd., and Kongsberg Maritime are collaborating on the development of a radically new remotely-operated fireboat that will allow first responders to attack dangerous port fires more aggressively and safer.

Remotely-operated Fireboat.

Full-electric, autonomous ferry concepts

KONGSBERG has signed a Research & Innovation contract with technology acceleration organisation PILOT-E for the development of zero emission, full-electric, autonomous ferry concepts. The overall vision for the PILOT-E Autonomous Ferry concept is to develop a state-of-the-art ferry as an integrated, zero emission aspect of a total national transportation plan.

Artists impression of new zero emission, full-electric, autonomous ferry concept.

Autonomous Ship Transport at Trondheimsfjorden - ASTAT

The ASTAT project examine possibilities for operating a small and battery powered unmanned autonomous ship in the Trondheimsfjord area. This is mainly intended as replacement for today's truck transport. The project develops a high level design for the ship and supporting equipment ashore. The design will in principle cover both bulk and break bulk transports. The project kick-off took place in May 2017 and the project will run for two years.

The project will investigate three autonomous sailing cases as indicated.

AUTOSEA - Collision avoidance study

The AUTOSEA project focus on automated situation awareness using sensor fusion to reduce the risk of collisions between ships and vehicles when an increased level of autonomy is introduced.

SESAME Straits e-Navigation project

The project's objective is to improve the safety of vessel traffic and enable "just-in-time" arrival technology, improving the efficiency of existing port infrastructure, and reducing the environmental footprint by making it possible to predict possible vessel traffic hot-spots in congested waterways, as well as providing new strategies to avoid such congestions.

Autonomous ship test areas

Autonomous ships require new technology. This new technology needs ships and areas for testing and verification. Several such test-areas are now made available in Norway, and are ideally located for Kongsberg Maritime's various R&D facilities:

Trondheimsfjord in Norway

An extensive area of the Trondheimsfjord in Northern Norway has been designated as an official test bed for autonomous shipping by the Norwegian Coastal Administration. Trials have already demonstrated the suitability of the area for autonomous ship testing.

The first official test bed for autonomous shipping, an extensive area of the Trondheimsfjord in Northern Norway.

Storfjord in Norway

In September 2017 The Norwegian Maritime Authority and The Norwegian Costal Administration established a second area for remote control and autonomous ship testing in Storfjord in the northernmost part of western Norway. The area has several ferry crossings that are suitable for testing and developing sensor technology and management systems necessary to develop greater degree of autonomy in ships.

Storfjorden autonomous ship test area on the west coast of Norway.

Horten in Norway

In December 2017 The Norwegian Maritime Authority and The Norwegian Costal Administration established a third area for remote control and autonomous ship testing in Horten on the Oslo fjord in southern Norway. We have worked closely with the town of Horten, DNV GL, FFI (Norwegian Defence Research Establishment) and the University College of South East Norway, to establish the new test-bed, which is situated adjacent to Kongsberg Maritime's Horten facilities.

Grenland in Norway

In May 2017, local port authorities applied to The Norwegian Costal Administration for a fourth autonomous test-area in Grenland, southern Norway. The area has considerably more traffic than the Trondheimsfjord and Storfjord, and will be useful for testing of more developed concepts in a heavy traffic environment. The area has VTS coverage, which will further add to the usefulness of the test-area.

An entire Norwegian fjord now opens for testing autonomous ship technology.

Available test vessels

KONGSBERG operates four test / research vessels that meet all our autonomous development and verification needs. They are all well equipped research platforms and include two-way broad-band links to allow direct, full and safe communication with all our research facilities. Two of these vessels are specifically equipped for autonomous ship research / development, and the other two for autonomous ship, autonomous underwater vehicle, hydrography and other testing.

The two 41 foot Ocean Space Drone I and II are first and foremost dedicated to testing of autonomous shipping functionality - used in the development of new sensor and control systems for autonomous operation.

This is Kongsberg Maritimes new research vessel "Sølvkrona - The Silver Crown". It is specially designed for testing autonomous technologies within the Ocean Space domain.
Simrad Echo, the largest and oldest vessel in our fleet (substantially upgraded 2018) - one of the most well equipped hydrographic test / research vessels in the world.

Simulator testing

KONGSBERG is a major ship simulator manufacturer. We possess simulator systems to test all aspects of autonomous sailing under various traffic, load and weather conditions.

For the YARA Birkeland project we will use extensive simulator testing. We have modelled the complete sailing area and will connect the autonomous ships control system to the simulator. The simulator will provide the sensor input to the autonomous control system, and will also have a full and very detailed model of the ship including all the ships dynamics. This will let us test all aspects of sailing and emergency situations in a completely safe environment. A built-in simulator can also be used for prediction purposes when the ship is operational.

Autonomous ship testing - From the simulator operator station.
Autonomous ship sailing area including sailing routes.

Digital information platform

Kognifai is KONGSBERGs new open and collaborative digital platform that improves integration between the world of information technology and operational technology.

For autonomous shipping, it provides a safe platform to communicate and store all relevant data about the ship, creating a kind of "digital twin" of the ship. This virtual image can be maintained throughout the ships lifespan, creating a testbed for prediction and autonomy. The digital platform also provides an easy way to manage the volume of data required for reporting.

Kognifai Connect collects, coordinates and analyses your operation continuously - providing valuable data for next generation optimal design and predictive performance behaviour analysis.

Related activities and solutions

KONGSBERG have been and is involved in many activities needed to bring about the coming of autonomous ships. We pioneered radar based collision avoidance, and were the first to deliver commercially available dynamic positioning systems. As the largest supplier of autonomous underwater vehicles and of ship simulators, we possess the ability to simulate and test all aspects of ship behaviour, communication and control. We manufacture most of the key systems required for autonomous operation in-house. These systems seamlessly integrate to provide THE FULL PICTURE.

The following is a list or recent activities that relates to autonomous ship operation in one way or another:

Eelume - Subsea robot project: The Eelume underwater Intervention vehicles is a self-propelled robotic arms whose slender and flexible body can transit over long distances and carry out light inspection, maintenance and repair jobs in confined spaces.

The subsea janitor has successfully been demonstrated in deep waters of the Trondheimsfjord. Check out the snakes smooth movements and superior manoeuvrability in the water.

Maritime Broadband Radio: Test using four autonomous units – an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), an unmanned surface vessel (USV), an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), and a tethered relay balloon – were guided from a mother ship in various tasks.

Using EGNOS and Galileo to support Autonomous Maritime Operations: It is essential for the maritime community to navigate safely in close proximity of other stationary or moving vessels and objects. The Hull to Hull project, with the help of the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), EGNOS and Galileo, will address this need, helping mariners in taking correct navigation decisions, and creating the fundamental condition for autonomous vessels.

Live streaming of survey data: Kongsberg Maritime teamed up with ASV Global to demonstrate how survey, communication and positioning technology can be used with a new generation of advanced Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV).

Seamless data, voice and HD video transfer: How to enjoy complete situational awareness during multi-asset offshore operations, across large areas, with multiple teams working simultaneously.

Through-ice location and communication system: Kongsberg Maritime, has joined forces with Scottish communication technology company, WFS, to develop a wireless system for locating and communicating with AUVs in ice conditions.