In complex technical systems and processes, there is a trend to reduce the number of human operators. For instance, in the process industry the number of people that have to monitor a process plant is gradually being decreased, to save on manning costs and, more important, to minimize the probability of human error.
Decreasing the number of human operators on a system implies that their tasks have to be taken over by automated systems. For instance, monitoring of a process can be done by an automated condition monitoring system rather than an operator. In general, automated processes can operate autonomously as long as no failures or unexpected events occur. However, in emergency situations, intervention of a human operator is often still critical as an automated system is generally not able to deal with unknown situations. Therefore, the last step in reducing the number of operators on a system, i.e. the step from one operator to no operator, will be a quantum-leap for which a fundamental change of technology is required. (.......... more in the project proposal).
Because the DP operator is involved in a large share of DP incidents and because of the limited availability of operators, it may be beneficial to change the role of the operator in the process. The objective of this project therefore is to investigate the feasibility and limitations of a novel ‘unattended DP’ operating system by creating a prototype of such a system and subsequently to test and validate this system.
An unattended DP system as investigated in this project will normally operate without an operator monitoring the system. Instead the DP system operates completely autonomously, using a condition monitoring system to detect any abnormal event in the system. The operator will then be available to perform other tasks; these tasks will however be in the proximity of the DP system consoles, to guarantee a quick return to the system when needed. Performing other tasks will prevent operator’s loss of concentration and increases efficient use of available personnel onboard the vessel. Once the condition monitoring system detects an abnormal event, the operator will be called back to the DP station where the system informs him on the status and the detected abnormality. The operator then has to verify if the detected event is indeed a system failure and take appropriate action to solve the problem.