ARTIFICAL intelligence (AI) will enable ships navigating in polar ocean conditions to be more efficient using a new navigation route planning tool.

The tool was created by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) researchers and aims to reduce carbon emissions and optimise science.

It will be used by the crew of the UK’s polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, to make decisions about route planning.

The Sir David Attenborough is currently docked in Harwich and is set to embark on its second voyage to the Antarctic on Sunday, November 20.

Maria Fox, professor from the British Antarctic Survey AI lab, said: “We’ve created something that is very similar to the kind of in-car navigation system like Google maps that many of us use already, but with the added complication that in the ocean there are no roads, and the conditions are changing constantly, which affects the routes between destinations.

“The key driver here is to create something that reduces the ship’s carbon emissions and makes our science more efficient.

“We’re really excited about this open-source project which we think will be of value to all ships operating in the polar oceans.”

The tool will recommend the fastest and most fuel-efficient routes between two locations taking into account all the polar conditions such as sea ice, ocean dynamics and weather.

The first stage of the project is to develop a tool which can optimise route planning for carbon efficiency.

This route planner is therefore a key piece in the puzzle in helping BAS achieve its aim of being net zero by 2040.

Integration with on-board systems on the Sir David Attenborough began this month

As the tool develops, the team will integrate more live data from the ship, such as speed and fuel requirements in different conditions, to refine the model and improve route efficiency even more.

The team also intends eventually to integrate science and logistics tasks into the planning tool.

Will Whatley, captain of the RRS Sir David Attenborough: “This innovative new tool is going to help us ensure RRS Sir David Attenborough remains as fuel efficient as possible, I’m particularly excited to see how it performs around ice.

“There are many systems out there that can give weather routing in open ocean but this tool is unique by adding the capability to consider ice, allowing us to reduce our fuel usage and environmental impact during the field season.”