Supporting innovation across the maritime sector, digital twins provide shipping companies, port operators and other users with accurate virtual environments to test new solutions. The research and development team at the UKHO has been building and testing immersive digital twins of the ocean, to help further our understanding of the marine environment.

What is a digital twin?


A digital twin is a virtual model of a physical environment, accurately replicating its conditions in near real time. These digital replicas can be used in a range of applications, for example allowing users to embark on virtual tours of ports, informing data collection, and supporting route optimisation and simulation.

Live vessel movements are shown using real-time data feeds and AI test data. This includes official marine data such as bathymetry, tidal heights and seabed composition, alongside other sources of weather and land-based data.  

Bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and decision making, digital twins provide a comprehensive and data-driven approach to maritime navigation. This will support innovation in the maritime industry by creating a realistic environment to simulate situations. It will also allow for testing new technologies for both manned and unmanned vessels and studying the effects of environmental change.

Digital Twins of the Ocean


Earlier this year the UKHO, along with other partners, signed the memorandum of understanding with Digital Twins of the Ocean (DITTO) programme. The programme is endorsed by the UN Ocean Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and brings together ocean data, models and digital information with those who are planning and regulating human activity with the ocean.  

Digital twins of the ocean can be developed and used to support ocean protection, ocean governance and a sustainable blue economy. In aid of this, the UKHO’s Research, Design and Innovation team has been working with the marine community to build digital twins. Utilising our data and expertise the team have developed a digital twin of Loch Ewe in Scotland  and an area of the Solent in Hampshire, to create accurate testing environments.  


The UKHO have been developing immersive digital twins, watch our video to find out more.

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If you would like to speak to any of the team about our involvement in shaping the future of navigation, you can contact us using the form below.