Intensive testing in the CAPTN project

Anschütz continues to research autonomous navigation with data from the Wavelab.

The testing of autonomous shipping in Kiel is progressing: Anschütz and the project partners of the Clean Autonomous Public Transportation Network (CAPTN) initiative have started regular operations with the Wavelab in the test field on the Kiel Fjord and have been able to collect important data, especially in the winter months.

Last year, the Wavelab test ship was completed and (partially) autonomous driving tests with monitoring and remote control from the Remote Operating Centre (ROC) located at Anschütz began. In the ROC, the navigation bridge was virtually set ashore, with a digital twin infrastructure and additional displays and videos providing a full situational picture of the Wavelab at sea. Also, new user interfaces for remote autopilot and steering control as well as propulsion were developed for this purpose.

Research initially focussed on finding out what information is required for safe remote monitoring, navigation and steering, and how it can be put together and presented without overloading navigators at shore. In recent months, the remote-control tests with the Wavelab have then been steadily intensified to mature the technology and receive additional data.

“For us, it was ultimately about driving under different conditions, collecting and recording data, testing technology and learning", said Daniel Sommerstedt, Head of CAPTN Research Projects at Anschütz. "For example, when a flock of birds flies over the water, it is tracked by the radar. Object recognition in the camera first has to learn to categorise such events.”

The continuous research and development with the Wavelab on the Kiel Fjord and in a confined sailing area such as the Kiel Canal has provided the project partners with a broader range of experience and data, particularly with regard to sailing in more demanding environmental conditions such as twilight and darkness, rain or swell. At the same time, experience was gained with the different radio coverage of the 5G providers. Addix and the Kiel University, as our partners in the CAPTN projects, are in the process of surveying the “dead spots” of the Kiel Fjord. They are conducting research to make communication secure, adaptive and robust at any time and under any condition.

Future research projects will be fuelled by these findings. The aim is to make navigation systems smarter by interpreting additional information and find a way in which this information can then be made available to support decision-making. For example, the use of various new sensors in defined scenarios will be analysed to determine the extent to which they improve situational awareness and, thus, simplify safe navigation and control. The development of assistance systems, including for collision avoidance, based on artificial intelligence and rule- and model-based approaches will also benefit from the data collected.

“This year, we are planning to take further major steps towards autonomous navigation and the development of approvable assistance systems”, said Sommerstedt. “We are proud to be able to carry out this great research and development project here in Kiel as part of the CAPTN initiative with significant results for the navigation of the future.”

As an expert in navigation and steering systems, Anschütz is working on solutions for (partially) autonomous systems and assistance systems onboard ships that support navigators, reduce errors and, thus, make shipping safer and more efficient overall.

The navigational basis for the current testing of autonomous navigation is Anschütz’s state-of-the-art integrated navigation system Synapsis NX, including its smart integration platform for data management, alert handling, and system health management.

CAPTN's vision is to develop autonomous, safe and sustainable public transport systems. The aim of CAPTN is to connect the eastern and western shores of the Kiel Fjord with autonomous, low-emission passenger ferries. A network of leading companies and universities is developing and researching the necessary technologies in a series of individual projects funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digitalisation and Transport.

Project partners include Anschütz GmbH, Addix GmbH, the University of Applied Sciences of Kiel, the University of Kiel (CAU), the Research and Development Centre Fachhochschule Kiel GmbH, and the Science Centre Kiel GmbH.