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无人驾驶船只将改变海上运输未来

更新时间:2017/10/17 10:29:00 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

The ships that could change the seas forever
无人驾驶船只将改变海上运输未来

Last month in San Diego, California, an engineer sat down at his computer and gripped a joystick on the desk in front of him. He wasn’t playing a video game – he was piloting a massive cargo ship thousands of miles away off the coast of Scotland.

上个月在加州圣迭戈(San Diego),一位工程师正坐在电脑桌旁,手里握着桌上的游戏操纵杆。他并不是在玩游戏,而在操控一艘此刻正在数千公里外的苏格兰海岸航行的巨型货轮。

The engineer’s joystick was directly linked to that vessel, via satellite, allowing him to control its movements precisely – entirely by manual remote control. He watched carefully as a virtual ship’s changing position was plotted on his screen. Meanwhile, on board the ship itself, other workers overseeing the test eyed their equipment and felt the craft bob and pitch under their feet. Over the course of a four-hour experiment – carried out by Finnish energy and technology firm Wärtsilä – it was manipulated by their colleague half-way round the world.

工程师的操纵杆通过卫星通信与货轮保持连接,他由此可以仅靠手动遥控操作而精确控制在千里之外的船的移动方向。此刻,计算机屏幕上的船只虚拟图标正在不断移动。与此同时,在这艘货轮上,其他实验人员正在一边监控设备运转,一边监控船只的摇摆颠簸。这是芬兰能源及科技企业瓦锡兰公司(Wärtsilä)正在进行的一次为时四小时的实验,实验由分别位于地球两端的人员共同完成。

Wärtsilä believes that smarter ships of the future will allow ship owners to more efficiently control the movements of their vessels, reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions. It’s an ambitious idea to tackle a grand challenge of the 21st Century, in which we are simultaneously more inextricably interlinked in global trade, but also face climate change that could change weather patterns, sea levels and seriously affect the journey of goods moving from A to B.

瓦锡兰相信,未来的智能化船舶能够让船东更为高效地控制船舶的航行、降低能耗并削减排放。在各国空前紧密地通过国际贸易联系在一起的21世纪,我们面临气候变化的重大威胁。气候变化会导致极端恶劣天气及海平面升高,严重影响全球货物运输。因此,自动驾驶船舶堪称是解决这些问题的雄心之举。

What’s more? Those ships could be captain-free, and could one day be controlled from many miles away not by humans, but by computers.

另外,这些船舶还可实现无人驾驶,有朝一日可以通过计算机,而非人进行远距离操控。

Shipping is a gigantic industry, but it is not known for being the most hi-tech. Many vessels criss-crossing the world’s oceans today are bulky, diesel-guzzling giants that haven’t fundamentally changed in many years.

远洋航运是一个规模巨大的产业,但其高科技含量却不尽如人意。今天,在各大洋来往穿梭的很多轮船都是体型庞大,耗油量惊人的海上怪兽,这种现状很多年都没有出现显著变化。

Will ship designs change much in the near future? And is automation, which we are already seeing more of in road vehicles, about to hit the waves as well?

在不远的未来,船舶设计会出现明显改进吗?已经开始改变道路车辆面貌的自动化技术是否也将改变海洋运输?

A big driver for updating the world’s ships is the war on pollution. In fact, just 15 of the largest vessels produce the same amount of sulphur emissions as all the planet’s cars put together. But large companies are also, of course, looking for ways of maximising their profits.

世界船舶革命的一个主要推动力在于治理污染的急迫需求。要知道,16艘世界最大船舶的污染物排放量就已和全球所有汽车的总排放量不相上下。当然,大型航运企业同时考虑还有如何实现其利润最大化。

Wärtsilä’s experiment is still some way from becoming an everyday reality in shipping, admits head of digital Andrea Morgante. But because ship owners could cut significant costs by removing human crews from their vessels, he’s convinced it has potential.

瓦锡兰公司数字化产业主管安德烈·莫甘特(Andrea Morgante)承认,瓦锡兰开展的实验要想成为航运业的现实还需要很长时间。但是,由于采用自动化技术后船东能大幅度削减人类船员的成本,他相信这一技术潜力巨大。

“You could imagine new forms of tugs that are remote-controlled, to support vessels in the harbour,” he says. Another option would be ships that transport cargo around ports or along coastlines.

"想象一下能够远程遥控,在港口协助船只进出港的新型拖船,"他说。另一个有潜力的市场是在港口间或沿海岸线运送货物的近海货船。

In fact, one firm already working with others to test and deploy fully autonomous vessels that do this sort of thing without human pilots is Kongsberg, of Norway.

挪威康斯伯格海事公司(Kongsberg)正在与其他企业合作测试并部署具有上述用途的全自动驾驶货船。

It has two ships in development, the Hrönn and the YARA Birkeland. The Birkeland, an 80-metre long (264ft) container transporter will also be fully electric and is planned to enter service in the second half of 2018.

康斯伯格旗下有两艘全自动驾驶货船-Hrönn号和YARA Birkeland号正在建造。2018年下半年,80米长的全电驱动集装箱船Birkeland号将投入使用。

Peter Due, director of autonomy at Kongsberg, extols the accuracy of the sensors on board its test vehicles.

康斯伯格自动化业务主管彼得·杜伊(Peter Due)对测试船只上采用的传感器的精度赞叹不已。

“One system can see a beer can – you can’t tell if it’s Heineken or Carlsberg but you can see a beer can coming up close [on the water],” he explains. Machine learning trains the system to know what sort of objects are important to avoid, he adds.

"监控系统能探测到一只啤酒罐,你看不清是海尼根(Heineken)还是嘉士伯(Carlsberg),但你能看到它正浮在水面上,距离船只越来越近,"他说。机器学习能够训练系统如何判断哪些物体较为危险,需要规避,他说。

“A seagull is not something to be [wary] of but if you have a swimmer it will recognise that and act accordingly.”

"一只海鸥可以置之不理,但是如果发现水里有人游泳,就必须规避。"

A recent report by the University of Southampton suggested autonomous ships will arrive faster than expected, because of falling technological costs and a demand to solve a labour shortage in some areas of shipping.

英国南安普顿大学最近发布的一篇报告称,随着技术成本不断下降,且某些航运产业领域出现劳动力短缺问题,自动驾驶船舶将比人们当初预计更快地成为现实。

But as Due points out, bodies like the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will probably take several years to design regulations that allow autonomous vessels to operate in international waters. Within a country’s national waters, however, local laws may allow for quicker adoption of such systems, he adds.

然而正如杜伊所指出,国际海事组织(IMO)等机构可能需要好几年才能制定出自动驾驶船舶在国际水域航行所需的相关规则。然而,在一个国家的领海内,只需本国法律许可,自动驾驶船舶就可以迅速投入使用,他说。

Regardless of who or what is piloting future ships – might it be human or robot? - the design of massive, emission-spewing commercial vessels is set to change. And that’s another way that these vital modes of transport could lessen their impact on our planet.

无论未来船舶是由人还是机器人操纵,今天体型巨大、喷出滚滚浓烟的商业船舶都将最终改变其设计,从而减弱其对地球环境的不良影响。

It is possible, for example, to build ships out of composite materials, for example glass fibres and plastic, which could greatly reduce the weight of some vessels and thereby improve fuel consumption and increase cargo capacity.

例如,可以用玻璃钢和塑料等复合材料建造船舶,从而大幅度降低船舶自重,减少能耗,提高装载量。

The European Union recently launched a project – Fibreship – to develop composite material hulls for cargo ships more than 50 metres (165ft) in length.

欧盟近期启动了"纤维船舶"(Fibreship)计划,以发展长度超过50米的复合材料货轮船体。

For some vessels, including passenger ships, this could be of benefit says Volker Bertram, a professor of ship design and a project manager at DNV GL, a classification society.

DNL GL船级社船舶设计教授及项目经理沃尔克·波特拉姆(Volker Bertram)说,自动驾驶技术对于客轮等其他种类的船舶还会带来额外的优势。

But he adds that for larger craft, especially those moving heavy cargo, steel will probably remain the material of choice.

但是他说,对于大型船舶,尤其是装载重型货物的船舶,钢仍然是最优材料。

“If you have an oil tanker and 90% of the weight of the oil tanker is cargo, there is not much motivation to build it in a lightweight fashion,” he explains.

"假如一艘油轮排水量的90%都是它装载的石油,因此就不会有迫切需求采用轻量化材料,"他说。

Eco Marine Power, based in Japan, is working on rigid sails featuring solar panels that can be fitted to cargo ships.

日本Eco Marine Power公司正在研究装备采用太阳能电池板的刚性帆作为船舶动力。

“When we first started, it wasn’t that feasible to put solar [panels] on the rigid sails but the technology is always improving and the cost is coming down,” explains Greg Atkinson, director and chief technology officer.

"开始时,在刚性帆上装备太阳能电池板是不可行的。但是后来有了技术进步,成本也降低了,"公司社长兼首席技术官格里格·阿特金森(Greg Atkinson)表示。

He says any ships that use Aquarius will still need an engine and traditional fuel source, but wind and solar could additionally be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

他说,任何采用Aquarius系统的船只仍然需要发动机和传统燃油系统,但是风能和太阳能将有助于减少化石燃料的消耗。

Of the renewable energy portion, he believes that about 80% will come from the action of the wind on the sails and a further 20% from the solar panels.

在驱动船只的可再生能源中,有80%的能量来自作用在帆上的风能,另外20%来自太阳能电池板。

Eco Marine hopes to trial its system at sea on a bulk carrier – a type of large commercial ship that moves bodies of cargo like iron ore, coal or grain.

Eco Marine希望在一艘大型船只——铁矿石、煤炭或粮食的大型商业货轮——上对系统进行测试。

“They’re good target ships [for this technology],” explains Atkinson. “They’re going relatively slow and they’re sailing in some of the more favourable areas for wind.”

"这类船只是这一新技术的目标市场,"阿特金森说。"它们的航速较慢,并且航线位于季风带海域。"

There are other such systems elsewhere in the world, as well, which plan to develop a cargo ship with rigid sails, this time a car carrier that could hold up to 2,000 vehicles.

除了Eco Marine Power之外,有其他公司也正在开发货船刚性帆技术,其中一家公司计划为运载能力2,000辆汽车的货运船安装刚性帆。

But there are additional costs involved with designs like this – and indeed risks. Rigid sails, of course, can be dangerous in high winds, especially if they cannot easily be folded onto or beneath the deck.

然而,刚性帆也需要额外成本,同时也有风险。强风下,如果刚性帆无法折叠并收回到甲板上或甲板下,会造成很严重的危险。

“It’s a bit sobering to see that so many concepts have been pushed, and via lots of publications, and we see relatively few installations,” notes Bertram. He points out that digital technology is aiding ship designers and helping them to more accurately simulate how their vessels will perform in different conditions at sea. Energy efficiency savings of a few percent may result from this work, he believes.

"现在出现了很多新概念,各种论文也出版了很多,但是却很少有概念成为现实,"波特拉姆说。在数字化技术的协助下,船舶设计师能够更为精确地模拟船舶在不同海况下的表现,能把能耗至少降低几个百分点。

And techniques like 3D printing are probably going to change how some ship components are produced. A prototype 3D printed propeller was recently produced by a consortium of shipping companies in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

3D打印等新技术将改变某些船舶零部件的制造工艺。最近,荷兰鹿特丹的一家联合造船企业利用3D打印技术制造了一只螺旋桨原型件。

Of course, if a part breaks at sea and requires replacing, 3D printing it on board might be an attractive prospect for owners of some of the world’s largest ships.

当然,如果在海上某些部件破损需要更换,船上的3D打印机就可解燃眉之急。对于最大船舶的船东而言,这无疑是一项极富吸引力的技术。

These ships of the future – monster vessels piloted half a world away like a toy, built from futuristic materials that cut emissions and potentially powered by the Sun – are behemoths of the sea that might just change the face of Earth’s oceans forever.

这些形形色色的未来船舶技术——在半个地球以外自由操控的巨轮、用新材料建造,排放量更少的船舶、以及由太阳能驱动的船舶——将彻底改变远洋航运业的面貌。

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