Ship among icebergs

Augmented reality – the future of safe Arctic shipping

​Maritime traffic in the Arctic region is rapidly increasing which in turn has led to an increased risk of maritime casualties in the region. Now researchers at Chalmers together with the Oslo School of Architecture and Design have developed an AR tool in a VR-environment that will be able to help officers on the bridge to make the right decision under pressure whilst navigating the risky Arctic waters.
Maritime traffic in the northern Arctic Ocean is now increasing as more shipping-lanes are ice-free for longer periods of time due to the increased melting of sea ice as a result of climate change. However, navigating in Arctic waters is dangerous because of icebergs, rapid weather changes and, in some cases, lack of experience in the ships’ crew. This can lead to accidents and the release of oil and hazardous chemicals for example.

“As an officer, you need a lot of experience to navigate the shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean. For example, a highly trained eye is required to determine if it is newly formed ice that the ship can easily pass through or if it is hard multi-year ice that can tear the hull”, says Monica Lundh, associate professor and Head of Unit at Maritime Human Factors at the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences.

Safe Arctic Bridge

The research project SEDNA aims to improve the safety of maritime operations in the Arctic. One part of this project is to define the “Safe Arctic Bridge” which has been a collaborative effort between the Oslo School of Architecture and Design and Chalmers. Augmented reality (AR) solutions have been developed based on ship visits, feedback from subject matter experts and simulator exercises that help officers on board avoid hazards such as icebergs, shallow waters and other vessels. In the future, the AR solutions will be based on big data from, for example, satellite, radar, sensors and charts. Katie Aylward, PhD student at the unit for Maritime Human Factors:

“The Arctic environment adds increased pressure on the crew. A unique work environment, paired with information from a variety of sources, presented on different interfaces can be very stressful. This can lead to an inaccurate assessment of a situation, leading to poor decision-making. Our hope is that the AR solutions will give officers the most relevant information for the situation, at the right time to help them make the right decision under pressure in a harsh environment.”

Testing in a VR/AR-lab

In order to test the AR solutions safely, they have been developed and implemented in a Virtual Reality (VR) bridge environment. The Maritime Human Factors researchers have created a “VR/AR lab” to test the solutions on both future mariners – students in their last year at the Maritime program at Chalmers, and more experienced mariners – simulator instructors and industry personnel. 

"To get feedback from mariners with different experiences and with different perspectives is valuable for the continued development and eventual real-world implementation of the AR-tool. We don’t know when it will happen, but the advantage of AR solutions is that they can be applied to existing vessels and are not dependent on redevelopment on the bridge. However, to ensure safe Arctic navigation, I hope it is sooner rather than later," says Katie Aylward.


Facts: AR is an abbreviation for Augmented reality where digital elements are added to reality in real-time. Unlike VR (virtual reality) where everything that is visible is exchanged for an interactive digital environment.

Facts: SEDNA will develop an innovative and integrated risk-based approach to safe Arctic navigation, ship design and operation. The project is funded by Horizon 2020. Read more: SEDNA – Safe maritime operations under extreme conditions: the Arctic case​


Text: Anders Ryttarson Törneholm

Published: Fri 20 Mar 2020.