Multipurpose drones on ships

Fifty-four percent of all ship accidents in 2018 were due to navigational issues such as collisions with other ships, icebergs, infrastructure, or grounding on the seabed floor.[1] Large vessels are challenged to turn in tight spaces, and, depending on the weather conditions, under limited visibility. Captains approaching ports are restricted in their perspective from the bridge and so they rely on radar, cameras, and human spotters.

Drones, mounted on ship platforms, could be equipped with sensors to detect and determine the distance between the ship and obstacles and provide accurate and real time data to the bridge.

The commercial drone market is expected to grow tenfold from $4bn in 2018 to $40bn by 2023.[2,3] This is due to the increasing capabilities that see drones combined with other systems and being used for new purposes. Multipurpose drones on ships could, for example, take photos in case of damage to the ship and could taxi goods from one ship to another while passing.

When will it become accepted practice that commercial vessels are equipped with multi-purpose drones?

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[1] European Martime Safety Agency (2019), Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents 2019
[2] Joshi, D. (2019), Drone Technology Uses and Applications for Commercial, Industrial and Military drones in 2020 and the Future
[3] McGee, P. (2019), How the Commercial Drone Market became Big Business
More information:
 UNCTAD (2018), Review of Maritime Transport 2018

By Matthew J. Spaniol