Today in Duisburg, the world’s first inland waterway boat model that can navigate completely autonomously is being christened. The DST in Duisburg ordered the “Ella” from boat builder Uwe Feller.

The almost 15 m long and battery-electric powered scale model of an inland vessel is fully functional. Unlike comparable previous test vehicles for automation in inland waterway transport, “Ella” is thus able to provide reliable data for manoeuvre automation, as it corresponds to a real motorised cargo vessel in terms of driving characteristics and hull shape.

The manoeuvres that “Ella” will be able to perform autonomously in future include, among other things, track planning and tracking under weather conditions that are real all year round, as well as docking and casting off in ports, passing through locks and crossing bridges. The knowledge gained from these manoeuvres is to be transferred to industrially used inland vessels.

ELLA” is modular in design

Ella” is modularly built and has all the control organs and operating elements necessary for inland vessels. These are being developed at the University of Duisburg-Essen by the Mechatronics Department, while Uwe Feller was responsible for the model construction. The front and rear hulls are each made of glass-fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) and complement a steel midship, with each section being individually floatable. This is complemented by a covered steering position, also made of GRP. Eighteen separately fillable ballast tanks adjust the weight carried to the loading conditions.

“Ella’s home port will be the Waltrop lock park with the Henrichenburg ship lift. From there, automated navigation is to be advanced both in the lock area and on a section of the Dortmund-Ems Canal (DEK).

Source: DST tauft autonomes Testschiff »ELLA« – Binnenschifffahrt Online (