SK Telecom and Samsung partner on 5G autonomous ship

It’s strange that there should be such a buzz around autonomous cars and autonomous planes, and yet relatively little said of autonomous shipping. Considering the media along which the vehicles travel – land, air and sea, respectively – one would think that a flat, liquid expanse largely devoid of obstacles would be the easiest of the three to navigate autonomously.

Hurdles abound, however. With the scale of cargo ships and the worth of the cargo they carry, mistakes cannot be made, meaning companies might be reluctant to move away from the human responsibility of a captain. The electrification occurring alongside the automation of vehicles and aircraft is also infeasible for large vessels owing to current battery technology.

Nevertheless, advancements are being made, with ports such as Rotterdam bringing in technologies to prepare for their arrival. Yesterday, South Korea’s SK Telecom and Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) announced that they had developed a 5G-based autonomous platform for testing of the technology. Also featuring remote control capabilities, the test ship built by SHI features 5G-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR), a cloud-based IoT platform and real-time video monitoring from SK Telecom.

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The companies said that after a destination was set from a remotely located control center, the ship autonomously navigated to its destination, recognising and avoiding obstacles in the controlled location near an SHI shipyard.

“Today’s successful test marks a meaningful step towards commercialization of technologies for autonomous navigation of ships powered by 5G,” said Choi Il-gyu, Vice President and Head of B2B Business Office of SK Telecom. Shim Yong-Lae, Vice President of SHI Ship & Offshore Research Institute added: “We have now secured an optimal research environment to make a leap in the area of autonomous navigation ship technologies by combining Samsung Heavy Industries’ autonomous and remote navigation system and SK Telecom’s 5G communication technologies.” 

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