The South Korean telecom giant operated their 12-person cruise ship remotely from their offices hundreds of kilometres away
KT’s partnership with Hyundai goes all the way back to May 2019, but it was only last summer that the operator announced it would invest around $41 million for a 10% stake in Hyundai Robotics, aiming to co-develop intelligent service robots and smart factories.
The partnership bore fruit quickly. In June, the pair unveiled an upgraded hotel service robot, that moves autonomously, understands voice commands, and can deliver amenities to guests. Later, in October, KT and Hyundai announced a 5G-connected smart factory industrial robot, designed to be assigned manufacturing tasks too dangerous to complete alongside human workers.
Now, the latest breakthrough for the two companies comes in the form of an autonomous cruise ship, with successful tests seeing the vessel carry a dozen passengers down the Pohang Canal. The busy canal has an average width of around 10 metres, with the ship navigating the waters primarily through LiDAR sensors and special cameras, which gave the remote operators a 360-degree field of view.
This initial test saw the ship travel around 10km without an on-board pilot.
The test saw KT partner with Avikus Corp., an autonomous navigation company under shipbuilding giant Hyundai Heavy Industries Group, who provided the autonomous system for the ship. Meanwhile, KT provided the 5G connectivity and remotely operated the ship from Gwacheon, just south of Seoul.
This successful trial means that Avikus will now aim to scale up their various solutions, with the ultimate goal being to target large commercial vessels on transoceanic voyages.
"We will commercialise a self-driving leisure boat for the first time in the world next year based on our fully autonomous sailing technology that showed successful results in this demonstration. We will become the first mover in the self-sailing ship market," said Avikus CEO Lim Do-hyeong.
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