Autonomous technology is not just for cars. The industrial shipping industry is also in a position to directly benefit from driverless platforms. In fact, there’s a possibility that marine-based vessels will operate autonomously before land-based vehicles, as there are less obstructions and challenges to address during navigation (no pedestrians, intersections and stop lights). How will LEDs usher self-driving ships into the modern era of shipping?
Reliable Lighting for Unmanned Ships
Recently, Google and Rolls-Royce announced a strategic partnership that would streamline the development of driverless ships. Machine learning, as well as AI-powered classification systems will be applied for identification of other ships and landmarks on the ocean. When developing driverless platforms for vessels, engineers feed images to the system in a virtual environment, before deployment in a live setting.
For accurate sensing, ships require powerful lights around the vessel. Because the units will not be operated by a crew (the overall goal is unmanned navigation), the lamps must be reliable. LEDs can meet such rugged prerequisites due to their solid-state design. Furthermore, the vessels will need to be equipped with standard navigation lighting.
LIDAR and LEDs
Autonomous platforms use LIDAR systems to gauge and monitor distance. The unit sends out rapid light beams and measures the duration of travel between the sensor and object. LIDAR components are generally expensive to acquire, as the technology is mostly used in the military and for large-scale surveying.
Cheaper LIDAR variants have started to enter the market, which utilize LEDs for operation. Instead of using lasers for detection, the units emit a blinking LED chip. The blinking LED contains a unique signature that is constantly monitored by the unit. These low-cost LIDAR systems are capable of identifying objects as far as 45 meters with up to 95 percent accuracy.
Going beyond autonomous ships, LED-powered LIDAR units can be installed on drones, due to their extremely compact size.