Scottish researchers create AI to update 2,000-year-old process for measuring ships’ stability

Written by Ruaraidh Gilmour on 25 April 2023 in News

University of Edinburgh team unveils automated tool that will shortly be turned into smartphone app

Credit: Public domain

A consortium of researchers in Scotland have developed artificial intelligence technology intended said to modernise the way that shipping vessels are weighed and checked for stability.  

The University of Edinburgh and naval architecture firm Tymor Marine, with funding from CENSIS, Scotland’s publicly funded innovation centre for sensor, imaging, and internet of things technologies, have created a tool to automate and better read draught marks – numbers on the side of vessels that help to indicate how much of the ship is under water.

These are currently measured and recorded by eye, a process that is based on a 2,000-year-old principle formulated by Greek scientist Archimedes (pictured above).  

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However, accurate measurements are not always recorded, due to factors including waves, fading markings, lighting, and marine growth. The technology uses algorithms applied to video recordings of ships with the aim of accurately identifying where the waterline has reached on a ship’s hull.  

Developers of the technology are continuing to work on it, with the intention of creating a smartphone app that allows seafarers to record measurements and upload them to the cloud for real-time readings.  

Dr Hakan Bilen, reader in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, added: “The algorithm we have created for Tymor Marine has been built on the recent advances in deep neural networks. The model takes in a video showing a ship’s hull and identifies where digits on the side of a vessel intersects the water line in a variety of different scenarios. We are continuing to build the database by introducing more manual annotations for training and also to improve various components in the method, which should only make it more accurate in the future.”  


About the author

Ruaraidh Gilmour is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @Ruaraidh0.

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