Weather guidance tools are common for oceangoing merchant ships, but they are not generally designed with ice in mind. Researchers at the British Antarctic Survey are working to fill this gap to meet the specialized needs of their organisation, which is focused on safe and efficient navigation in remote areas of the Southern Ocean.
BAS AI Lab is designing an AI-powered route planning tool to recommend the fastest and most fuel-efficient routes in polar waters, taking into account ice, surface and weather conditions. It will be tested this season on the RRS research vessel Sir David Attenborough (Although the master and control officers would still make the final decisions about navigation.)
“I am particularly excited to see how it performs around the ice. There are many systems that can provide weather guidance in the open ocean, but this tool is unique by adding the ability to look at the ice, allowing us to reduce our fuel use and environmental impact during the season Field,” said Capt. Will Whatley, Mr. RRS Sir David Attenborough.
The new tool is based on existing forecasts and data sets, and is constantly updated. Its purpose is broader than daily commuting: researchers envision it as a tool for effective planning of seasonal routes, even months in advance. The team plans to improve the model with real-world fuel consumption data from the ship, and may eventually integrate science and logistics tasks into the tool as well.
The route planner is part of BAS’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2040. “The main driver here is to create something that reduces the ship’s carbon emissions and makes our science more efficient. We are really excited about this open source project,” said Professor Maria Fox of the BAS AI Lab. which we believe will be of value to all ships operating in the polar oceans.”
RR Sir David Attenborough is a Polar Class 4 research vessel designed to support BAS’ search and resupply missions below latitude 60. After a well-publicized naming competition, it was delivered in late 2020, and made its maiden voyage to the research station at Rothera in late 2021.