5,000 tests to study autopilot for large-sized ships

(18-06-2021) As part of his doctorate ‘Numerical and Experimental Study on Ship Motion Control Systems in Shallow Water’, Changyuan Chen conducted 5000 towing tank tests to study autopilots for large-sized ships in shallow water.

An autopilot exists not only for aircraft but also for ships and is a control algorithm that can steer a ship on a predetermined course or trajectory without human intervention.

With the rapid development of autonomous ships, the demand for advanced autopilots is increasing. Numerous control algorithms have been developed for autopilots in the literature, but most studies concentrate on the complex theoretical approaches, which greatly hinder their practical applications. In practice, however, a simple, robust and adaptive control algorithm is needed. It is therefore necessary to assess the application of autopilots in realistic scenarios and to validate the simulation results.

Nevertheless, only a limited number of studies have been conducted to investigate this performance through experimentation. Most experimental studies focus on small-sized ships in deep water. There is a lack of data on large-sized ships in shallow water, which in fact require more control actions. Consequently, the study of autopilots for large-sized ships in shallow water is of great interest.

Within the framework of this doctoral study, around 5000 free running model tests were carried out in the Towing Tank for Manoeuvres in Confined Water (co-operation Flanders Hydraulics Research and Ghent University), where various mathematical models were tested and improved. This knowledge was then applied in the fast-time manoeuvring simulator at Flanders Hydraulics Research, where the more realistic and optimised sailing behaviour of the ship in complex sailing environments was clearly shown.

Contact: Changyuan Chen


Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Final editing: Ilse Vercruysse - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke