The world's largest robots are setting sail

In a Norwegian fjord, a gigantic lime-green warship is being tested. It looks like any other ship. However, closer inspection reveals all the high-tech gear. Cameras, microphones, radars, GPS, and satellite communications.

"We've added a lot of equipment and designed her especially to be what we call 'robotic'," explains Ocean Infinity's head of remote systems, Colin Field.

Eventually, OI's "Armada" will consist of 23 vessels that will survey the seabed for offshore wind farm operators and verify undersea infrastructure for the oil and gas industry.

Despite being 78m (255ft) long, the ship only has 16 people. A typical ship doing the same work needs 40–50 people. The OI believes it can lower numbers further.

The company's Southampton remote operations center feels like a future film set. The large, dimly lighted area has 20 "bridge stations" with gaming-like controls and touch screens.

Operators in high-backed seats watch a bank of monitors streaming live footage from the ship's cameras and sensors.

To test this novel method, direct an underwater robot or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to descend from the deck to survey the seafloor.

"It's amazing how everything is automated," says ROV trainee Marian Meza Chavira. "In some ways it's easier here than offshore because you have so many more cameras for context."

Autonomy, robotics, remote operation, and AI will change all transport industries. Experiments are underway worldwide for maritime.

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