More safety and automation in inland navigation: SensorSOW research project takes off

Highly automated inland waterway vessels are expected to make freight transport on waterways more attractive and effective in the future. For this vision to become reality, the safety and degree of automation of shipping must be further advanced. With the development of modern sensor and assistance systems, the SensorSOW project aims to further sharpen the technical prerequisites for this on board.

At the kick-off event on March 21, 2023, the project partners, Alberding GmbH from Wildau, the Department of Design and Operation of Maritime Systems at the Technical University of Berlin and the Institute of Automation Technology at the University of Rostock, gave the official go-ahead for the research project. Over the next two years, they will jointly develop sensor and assistance systems for determining the ship and traffic situation as well as the fairway under water and test them using existing test vehicles and test ships in the digital test field on the Spree-Oder-Wasserstraße (SOW).

For the on-board determination of the traffic situation, high-resolution LIDAR sensors are used. SONAR sensors will be used for predictive bathymetric inspection of the fairway under water. A bow sensor is to determine the position of the ship's bow with decimeter accuracy as well as to record the „bow view“ via camera and radar sensors. To increase the on-board availability of precise GNSS correction data, a multimedia box is being developed that can receive the correction data via AIS/VDES, DAB+ and mobile internet.

The evaluated sensor data, the ship data and the information provided on shore regarding the navigability of the waterway are visualized and evaluated in the on-board assistance system. The assistance system warns the skipper visually and acoustically of dangers and offers recommendations for action. The secure transmission of the summarized sensor information to the control center supports the remote control of the ship.

The project consortium is supported by strong partners such as BEHALA Berliner Hafen- und Lagerhausgesellschaft mbH, LUTRA GmbH, Bundesverband Öffentlicher Binnenhäfen e. V., Generaldirektion Wasser-straßen und Schifffahrt (GDWS) and Wasserstraßen- und Schifffahrtsamt (WSA) Spree-Havel in realizing and testing the project objectives.

The SensorSOW project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) within the framework of the funding guideline for research and development of digital test fields on federal waterways (DTW II) with a total of around 1.33 million euros. The project results are to be available by December 2024.

Further information on the project can be found here: