Autonomous Firefighting Vessel Concept Design

A concept for autonomy

QinetiQ have developed a concept design for an autonomous firefighting and rescue vessel to illustrate the possibilities for autonomous shipping to undertake dull, dirty and dangerous roles, and to enable discussion of the considerations needed for the design of autonomous vessels. The role of firefighting and rescue was identified as one which is required on an irregular basis, yet is required for the protection of significant assets in ports or offshore. The attractiveness of an autonomous vessel for a role which involves considerable periods of loitering is clear, but also has the potential to remove people from the potentially dangerous firefighting activity. In considering the firefighting role, it is easy to see a situation where the firefighting vessel would be faced with people in the water or in liferafts/lifeboats, where a manned vessel would provide a rescue facility and transit to shore. The challenge was to incorporate this kind of function into an autonomous vessel and to identify any potential limitations.

Autonomous Firefighting Vessel Concept Design

More generally, the design of an autonomous vessel poses questions in terms of the standards and regulations in place designed to provide safety at sea. A case can be made that the vessel design need not incorporate many of the features which provide a safe workplace for those on board, but there will need to be consideration of staff coming on board to conduct servicing and maintenance, and also consideration of any interaction with manned vessels.

Principal Dimensions
Length O.A.: 79.9 m
Beam Mld.: 12.0 m
Depth Mld.: 7.0 m
Draught: 4.6 m
Deadweight: 620 te
Displacement: 3,100 te

Sprint speed: 20 kn
Transit speed: 15 kn
Loiter speed: 3kn

Tank Capacities
Fuel Oil: 600 m3
AFFF Foam: 100 m3

Full Diesel Electric
2 x 5 MW Direct Drive Electric Motors
2 x 3.0 m Diameter Fixed Pitched Propellers
3 x 1500 kW, 1.5 m Bow tunnel thruster
2 x 1500 kW, 1.5 m Stern tunnel thruster
DP 2 Classification

Power Generation
Two engine rooms
4 x 2650 kW Diesel Generators
2 x 625 kW Diesel Generators
Extensive solar panels
Large battery bank

Firefighting Equipment
FiFi Class III (I+)
4 x 2400 m3/hr Water monitors
2 x 300 m3/hr Foam monitors
Water mist system

Survivor Reception
150 person survival accommodation
Rescue zone port and starboard
12 x 50man life rafts
A frame for lifeboat recovery
Helicopter winching area

Operating Principle


  • Low power state 90 days+ providing FiFi cover for a number of Oil / Gas fields
  • Power provided by battery bank
  • Battery bank charged by combination of solar panels and intermittent running of generators
  • Generators run in rotation to maintain their condition


  • On report of an incident the ship transits to the location at full speed with power supplied direct from the generators
  • If firefighting needs to be instigated the ship enters DP mode and uses up to four water and two foam monitors to fight the fire
  • The ship has sufficient fuel to remain on station for in excess of 100hrs


  • Either on completion of fighting a fire or on completion of its deployment loitering the ship will transit back to port or a ‘mother ship’ for refuelling and maintenance before setting out on its next tasking

Design Features

Redundancy – design includes a gre

ater number of main components rather than fewer large components. This ensures a higher level of redundancy, important when there is no means of fixing mechanical breakdowns at sea.
Standard construction - the ship design has chosen to take a standard form to ensure a simple and cost effective build. Ship motions are only important when fighting fires as there is no human comfort to consider.
Simple systems / technologies – the design utilises existing technologies to demonstrate that this type of ship is eminently feasible to build without any as yet developed technology.