Drones could rule the oceans of tomorrow–and it will change your life

by / Monday, 10 March 2014 / Published in Personal

These days, it seems like everyone is talking about drone technology, but I’ve yet to see an application of the technology that could really be life changing. Big-name companies like Amazon and Domino’s have been experimenting with using delivery drones, but even that feels more like a publicity stunt than part of a serious change in the way we live our lives. So far, we’ve yet to see anyone who’s really come up with an idea for drone technology that can cut through all the hype and deliver something truly groundbreaking.

That’s why I was so excited to hear the report that Rolls-Royce was working on technology for building drone container ships that could operate with no onboard crew.

The announcement got me going for a couple of reason. First of all, it may not be very glamorous, but container shipping is vastly important to industry, and as a result, makes a lot of difference in the way we live our lives. In the old days, loose cargo had to be loaded and unloaded from ships manually by stevedores; think about Marlon Brando’s character from On the Waterfront. It was an incredibly inefficient process, and as a result, using something closer to where it was manufactured could provide real economic savings over importing manufactured goods from another country.

In just a few short decades, containerization—the practice of using stackable cargo containers that can go directly from a cargo ship to a tractor-trailer for land shipping—changed all of that. Shipping goods became much less expensive, to the point where it made sense to manufacture goods wherever they could be made the cheapest. The process became so efficient that the shipping cost for individual goods was barely even worth factoring into the equation.

As a result, manufacturing exploded in different parts of the world where there had barely been any industry to speak of before. When people talk about globalization, and the idea of the world getting smaller, container shipping is the unsung hero that made it all possible. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was one of the most influential technological developments of the entire 20th century.

So what does this new announcement mean for the future of shipping? It’s too soon to say for certain, but if you know anything about the history of container shipping, it seems clear that it’s going to make the international shipping process just a little bit more efficient, and make the world just a little bit smaller. Of course, people will end up losing jobs as a result of this new development, but that’s sadly the price we have to pay when we introduce disruptive new technology into the world. However, the trend with cargo ships has been toward smaller crews and more automation for a long time now, so the idea of eliminating a crew altogether really won’t be such a big jump forward.

I’m the type of person who likes to think about technology in a historical perspective, as well as looking at the connections it may have to our lives that may not be clear to the naked eye. That’s why this story gets me so excited. When people talk about using drones to deliver things, they’re usually not talking about the biggest delivery vehicles of all—cargo ships—because they aren’t highly visible like a pizza delivery drone. However, these new drone ships will change your life, so it’s something you should learn more about if you’re even the slightest bit interested in technology. The fact that a company like Rolls-Royce, which is usually associated with old-fashioned luxury, is behind this idea makes it even better, because it proves that life-changing technology can often come from unexpected sources.

Although the new technology may mean the loss of jobs for individuals, it will help move forward our global economy as a whole, in addition to creating new opportunities for jobs that may not have existed previously. For instance, Rolls-Royce is saying that the new ships will have to be operated virtually by captains who will get to stay in one place instead of having to spend lonely months at sea. Best of all, they’ll never have to worry about going down with the ship!

When you stop to think about it, it’s a lot cooler than a pizza delivery, isn’t it?

Sources: http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/25/rolls-royces-drone-shipbots-will-rule-tomorrows-oceans-shipping-containers/