Laser-based navigation

Contact and collision related casualties account for 40% of yearly insurance claims in the maritime industry.[1] 75% of these are caused by human error, amounting to $1.6bn in losses.[2] The major sources of ship damage are semi- and fully-submerged objects which go undetected by radars, sonars, and optical sensors.[1] The general trend towards any automation of vessels can only be realized with an assurance of simultaneous improvements in safety and reliability.[1]

LiDARs - light detection and ranging - has been developed for topographic mapping for self-driving cars. It can collect thousands of observations per second with millimetre precision, with a very high update rate and resolution.[3] Simulations are done in 4D to measure and monitor distances. The price of LiDAR sensors have fallen by almost 90% in recent years with the global LiDAR market expected to reach $2.1bn by 2024.[4,5]

However, technological advancement and research is still needed to ensure that subsea LiDAR is as effective as its terrestrial counterpart, and is able to overcome the distortion and scattering effects of water.[6,7]

When will it become an accepted practice that vessel navigation is supported by underwater laser scanners?

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[1] Cordis EU Research Results (2019). Surveillance of MARiTime surroundings through lasER technology
[2] Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, (2018). Safety and shipping review 2018: Annual review of trends and developments in shipping losses and safety
[3] Lader LTD, (2020), Laser Detection and Ranging Technology for Maritime and Offshore Operations
[4] Neal, A., (2018), LiDAR vs. RADAR
[5] John, J., (2018), Global LiDAR Market Expected to Reach USD 2,136.7 Million By 2024. Zion Market Research
[6] Converge Network Digital, (2018), MIT: Lincoln Lab looks to narrow-beam lasers for underwater comms. Converge Network Digital
[7] Filisetti, A., Marouchos, A., Martini, A., Martin, T., & Collings, S. (2018). Developments and applications of underwater LiDAR systems in support of marine science. In OCEANS 2018 MTS/IEEE Charleston (pp. 1-10). IEEE.
More information:
Global Maritime Services Ltd. (2020). Innovative vessel performance management and decision support solutions for the maritime industry
National Ocean Services, (2013). LIDAR—Light Detection and Ranging—is a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth.
Johnes, B., (2018). Elon Musk Calls Out LIDAR Tech as “A Crutch” in Autonomous Vehicles
Neptec Technology, 2018, Marine LiDAR
Gateway Container, 2018, Maersk to Use LiDAR on Containerships to Save Lives at Sea
Mærsk, (2017), The road to autonomous vessel tech
Hendricks, j., 2013, LIDAR: THE NEXT BIG THING?, Boating
Intellias, (2018), How Sensor Fusion for Autonomous Cars Helps Avoid Deaths on the Road
Tsyktor, V., (2018), LIDAR vs Radar vs Sonar: Which Is Better for Self-Driving Cars?, Cyper Pulse
Lee, B., (2018),Why experts believe cheaper, better lidar is right around the corner, Ars Technica
Allianz Insight, (2018), The threats and opportunities of autonomous ships, Allianz

By Matthew J. Spaniol