CAPTN Förde Areal II receives over 2.7 million euros federal funding

22. February 2023

Research and development of autonomous shipping can continue: Recently, a research consortium led by the Research and Development Center Kiel University of Applied Sciences GmbH (FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel GmbH) received a federal funding of more than 2.7 million euros from the German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV). This will allow the project’s five partners to take next steps towards an autonomous passenger ferry.

“This renewed funding commitment is a great success for the consortium of the project CAPTN Förde Areal and proof of the fruitful cooperation between universities and industry partners,” explained Björn Lehmann-Matthaei, Managing Director of FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel GmbH and lead partner of the CAPTN Förde Areal II project. “The foundation has been laid with the construction of the test carrier and the equipment of the digital test field. Now the test phase will start. By early summer, new research operations should be underway.”

The research project CAPTN Förde Areal was launched in 2020 with the aim to build a research vessel. Additionally, a digital test field with the necessary infrastructure was to be established. The funding program Digital Test Fields Waterways (DTW I) is now ending; the catamaran MV “Wavelab” has been completed and a suitable test field has been established at the WTD 71 naval arsenal on the Kiel Fjord.

“With the commissioning of the research vessel, a significant infrastructure is being created in Kiel to research autonomous and clean driving on the water under realistic conditions. Several research groups at Kiel University are involved in this project and are looking forward to the start the CAPTN Fjord Area II project,” says the scientific spokesperson of the CAPTN Initiative, Professor Dr. Dirk Nowotka. Kiel University and Kiel UAS are contributing to the project with scientific findings on sensor technology and artificial intelligence.

Björn Schwarze from ADDIX GmbH, which is one of the five project partners, is looking forward to being able to test the connection between the research vessel and its digital twin: “Reliable and high-performance real-time data transmission is one of the most important prerequisites for the safety of autonomous sailing and therefore needs continuous evaluation and development.” Among other things, said data includes information about travel paths, obstacles and the detection of traffic. In addition to setting up assistance and automation systems, the CAPTN Fjord Area II project is creating a digital twin, i.e. a virtual image of the ship in its test field. On this basis, the project partners are developing AI systems to ultimately generate a fully autonomous system.

Furthermore, the funding allows further development of another aspect of the research project. Kiel-based Anschütz GmbH, a manufacturer of integrated navigation and monitoring systems, is equipping the research vessel with complete integrated navigation, a trajectory control system and comprehensive sensor technology. The partner is also responsible for building and equipping the shore-based control center for remote control and monitoring of the research vessel.

“We see CAPTN Fjord Area II as an opportunity to work with partners from industry and science to establish a genuine maritime test field for autonomous ships that is unique in Germany. We want to use the test field to establish innovative assistance and automation systems. It is our goal to develop new and safe products certified for seagoing ships with a higher degree of automation,” explains Daniel Sommerstedt, one of the active partners in the project.

The research vessel was christened and launched on February 22. The vessel is expected to be handed over in March. After testing of the special technology, the actual research operation will begin.

The MV “Wavelab” will be available to other researchers – regardless of their participation in CAPTN Fjord Area II. “We are pleased that we will be able to use the ship for a variety of projects within the CAPTN initiative,” says Daniel Laufs, Innovation Manager and Project Manager CAPTN Förde Areal at the Kiel Science Center. “We want to establish conditions for autonomous driving not only on the Kiel Fjord, but in other areas as well. In addition, at the Science Center as the nucleus of the CAPTN initiative, the concrete application of the tested technologies and the identification of new areas of application are very close to our core competence.”

Federal funding for the project is provided within the framework of Digital Test Fields on Waterways (DTW II). Among other things, this involves the set-up, testing and evaluating of physical and virtual test fields for inland and coastal sailing with innovative automation solutions. The funding phase starts in April 2023 and runs until the end of 2024.