NTNU and the “milliAmpere” ferries

Zeabuz springs from decades of research on autonomous vessels at NTNU, and our initial key IP is licenced from several recent NTNU research projects.

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Image illustrations and video of milliampere and milliAmpere 2 are credited to NTNU.

NTNU and the milliAmpere ferries

Zeabuz springs from decades of research on autonomous vessels at NTNU, and our initial key IP is licenced from several recent NTNU research projects.

As an integral part of the ongoing research on autonomous vessels, NTNU has over the past years designed and financed the building of two small ferries, the milliAmpere and milliAmpere 2.

milliAmpere is famous for being the world’s first autonomous passenger ferry prototype. It is a battery powered 5 by 2.8 meter monohull fit for up to 5 researchers, equipped with 2 azimuthing thrusters, computing hardware and a sensor package consisting of RTK GNSS, radar, lidar, optical cameras and infrared cameras. This has made milliAmpere a prime research platform for early-stage development, testing and verification of control systems enabling autonomous passenger transport.

In December 2020 milliAmpere completed a three-hour fully autonomous operational test in Trondheim. You can watch a movie about this test to the left of this column. This was a proof of concept of the core autonomy system, and serves as a perfect stepping stone for further development in the next project phase – the milliAmpere 2.

milliAmpere 2 is a full-scale prototype designed to become a living lab in Trondheim city, with capabilities and supporting infrastructure enabling trial passenger operation. This allows research on a multitude of topics such as user interaction design, remote support centre integration and ferry operation in addition to further core autonomy research and development. It is a battery powered 8.5 by 3.5 meter monohull equipped with induction charging, 4 azimuthing thrusters, a similar sensor package as milliAmpere, a Dynamic Positioning (DP) system delivered by Marine Technologies, and designed to transport 12 passengers.

The milliAmpere 2 is scheduled to be launched in Q1 2021, undergo commissioning and testing through Q1 and Q2, and be put into irregular trial operation in Q3. While NTNU is building and commissioning the ferry and docking stations, Zeabuz is developing the operational concepts and working with the Norwegian Maritime Authorities to obtain the necessary certificates for passenger operation according to Guideline RSV12-2020. We are also working closely with the Trondheim Municipality, Trondheim Harbour and the local transport operator AtB to realize the trial operation – the FLYT Trondheim project.

Based on the experience with both the milliAmpere ferries, Zeabuz will design and launch our first ferry system in 2022.