Cruise ship inspection swarms

Vessel inspections are a regular part of a ship’s operation, undertaken as frequently as every six months.[1] Inspections cover the entire ship, from the bridge to the deck and accommodation areas, and the engine room.[2,3] The vast majority of these inspections are currently executed manually, are time consuming, and cost between $1.500 and $14.500, depending on ship type and size.[4]

Equipped with cameras and sensors, drones are already being used for vessel inspections, for example inspecting cargo holds and vessel hulls.[5] An autonomous swarm of small drones could maneuver flexibly and provide pictures of hard-to-reach areas.[6,7] Moreover, drones, operating concurrently, would speed up the inspection of the ship, and the data files can be post-processed using machine learning algorithms, reducing costs.[7]

When will it become accepted practice that drone swarms are used for vessel inspections?

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[1] DMA, 2020, Inspection intervals
[2] Paris MoU, 2020, Inspection types
[3] DEEP TREKKER, 2020, Vessel Inspections - How to Save Thousands of Dollars
[4] Cornell Law School, 2020, Annual vessel inspection fee
[5] Hester, J., 2018, Polar Tankers: Drone inspections reduce risk, save time and improve safety
[6] Chen, C. & Zhang, T., 2019, A Review of Design and Fabrication of the Bionic Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicles
[7] Lomas, N, 2017, Is it a bird? Is it a bug? No it’s a biomimetic microdrone with flapping wings

By Matthew J. Spaniol