First in the world: DFDS implements drone support system for ferries

2022/06/10 at 9:37 AM

Is it possible to combine ferry and drone? DFDS, the European leading ferry specialist, considers that it is not only possible but can be fruitful for the shipping sector. The Denmark-based company has begun to implement a new system that will provide ferries with necessary information when mooring or sailing in the narrow port areas.

Selandia Seaways ferry, source: DFDS

“As the first in the world, DFDS is introducing a drone support system as part of the equipment on commercial ships. The drone system will support the captains onboard when docking and sailing in narrow waters,” stated DFDS, the Danish ferry shipping line, on Thursday, 9 June. The Selandia Seaways ro-ro vessel will become the first where the new solution will be fully deployed. It will help optimise operations onboard the ships, acting as a supportive function to the vital human perspective.

Features of the drone system

The drone support system is connected to advanced navigation and includes a charging station, lidars, a thermographic sensor and a high-definition RGB camera. The drone is flying 120 metres up in the air, live streaming in real-time to the captain on the bridge, using a neural network to post-process the streamed video and calculating the distance between objects around the vessel. The drone will accurately provide the captain with important input acting as the captain’s eye in the sky on departure and arrival in the ports and narrow waters.

DFDS is regarding the innovative solution as a decision-support system. “Looking into the future, the drone system will also be able to act as an extra set of hands when a person is in distress or if a fire breaks out on board the ship. If a person falls overboard, the drone can fly back and locate the person using thermal and ordinary cameras,” the Danish company specified.

Drones can replace tugs in mooring vessels, source: DFDS

Partners of the project

The drone support system has become possible due to the support of the Danish Maritime Fund and ShippingLab/Innovation Fund Denmark. As for the system itself, it was developed by Upteko, the Copenhagen-based engineering company focused on drone solutions. DFDS and Upteko concluded an agreement for the development of the drone system a year ago.

“Using drone technology to support operations onboard our ships has been an area we have been investigating with great interest. We are proud of this collaboration, which will help accelerate the large-scale utilisation of drones to solve a number of tasks. This will in time result in improved efficiency and, more importantly, improved safety onboard our ferries,” said Mads Bentzen Billesø, head of innovation and partnerships at DFDS.

Read more about other drone-based innovations:

  1. Autonomous vessels: upcoming future for shipping?
  2. Buzz in harbour: how Belgian ports deal with drones
  3. Drone monitors underwater infrastructure in Port of Riga
  4. Innovations to improve water quality in ports

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