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ESA (The European Space Agency) signed a Memorandum of Intent with Rolls-Royce to investigate how space technology can be used to develop autonomous and remote-controlled ships. The partners will pool their expertise to analyze and implement space-enabled services for autonomous and remote-controlled shipping, which reduces the opportunity for human error and allows crews to concentrate on more valuable tasks.

According to easa.int, the plan is to study the applications of various space assets to autonomous shipping, such as satellite-based positioning, better situational awareness using Earth observation data, and satcom services for improved onboard connectivity.

The collaboration with the Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence division aims to develop and validate new ship-to-shore integrated land-based and satellite-based systems solutions, which ESA has been working on for some time.

The 5G next generation of communication services will rely on this harmonious integration of networks, driving a convergence of fixed and mobile services, including satcom services. ESA is supporting the technology and supply chain evolutions that are required to weave together terrestrial and space services, with a focus on the transport sector (maritime, aviation and land base), and on other vertical markets like public safety and media.

This unified space-and-ground service is what will enable the operation of commercial autonomous shipping, as well as drive innovation in future commercial marine vessels, cargo logistics and smart ports.