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Research in simulation and autonomous ships

Extension of the use of navigation simulators


Navigation simulators are basically designed for the training of navigating officers. However, with the evolution of mathematical and hydrodynamic models, as well as the increase in the capacity of computer components, this equipment can now be used for research purposes, risk analysis and incident reproduction. The presentation below is a good example, it is the reproduction of an incident at the port of Montreal with the use of the simulator of the Laurentian Pilotage Authority.

The arrival of autonomous ships is generating a lot of interest and concern. The IMO has set up various committees and working groups and Transport Canada is currently developing policies to regulate these vessels. The following presentation allows you to see the main initiatives underway.

Hybrid navigation simulator


Simulation by scale model in a virtual environment

In the field of maritime simulation, there are two types of simulation. The first is based on scale models in which a person is installed to carry out maneuvers on a real body of water. We must therefore physically reproduce in reduced dimensions the ships as well as the physical environment of a place.

The second type is simulation from a digital model. This involves creating a virtual universe in which, using a real gateway, a person performs maneuvers within the virtual framework.

Both simulation systems include advantages and disadvantages. Without drawing up an exhaustive list of the strengths and weaknesses of the platforms, let us mention that to respond adequately the scale models cannot have a reduction smaller than 1/25 of the real size and importantly, their reaction speed is inversely proportional to the square of the reduction. So 1/25 responds 5 times faster. Therefore, even if the hydrodynamic effects are very real and perceptible, this distortion in reaction time does not allow a maneuver to be faithfully represented in a real situation.

The virtual simulator remains a digital visualization system. Although the textures and the digital environment are becoming more and more realistic, the fact remains that the user is aware that this is indeed a virtual environment and not a real one.

Interestingly, the report by the Federal Maritime Accident Investigation Bureau of Germany regarding the collision between the CMV P&O Nedlloyd Finland and the CMV Cosco Hamburg which occurred in 2004 comes to the conclusion that the numerical simulation gives better results than mock-up modeling. Note that since 2004, hydrodynamic models have been refined, which allows them to be even more efficient.

Hybrid simulation platform

In order to counter the problem of reaction time of scale model platforms and that of realism of digital platforms, it is possible to consider a hybrid platform. A simulator using scale models which would be animated by a digital simulation system. Conceptually, we can imagine that the hybrid simulator would have a digital platform as its nervous system, an electrical platform as its backbone and real ship models as its body. All in all, basically: a reproduction of a physical environment on a reduced scale (terminal and ship), a digital simulator to carry out all the calculations and finally the movement of the ship models generated by the simulator.

The hybrid simulator would have the precision of digital technology and the realism of scale models. It would make it possible to reproduce the real inertial reaction of a large ship while having no constraints of scale or reaction time for the model.

Finally, it would be a unique concept in the world using new technology.

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