Autonomous tugboat set to cover 1,000 miles this month

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Sea Machines Robotics, developer of autonomous command and control systems for the maritime industry, will embark on a 1,000 nautical mile autonomous and remotely commanded journey around Denmark later this month.

An ocean tugboat, the Nellie Bly, will depart from Hamburg, Germany, on 30 September with full onboard vessel control managed by autonomous technology, which will operate under the authority of commanding officers located in the U.S.

At the helm will be the Sea Machines SM300 autonomy system, which will also utilise Sea Machines’ long-range computer vision solution. The SM300 is a sensor-to-propeller autonomy system that uses advanced path-planning, obstacle avoidance replanning, vectored nautical chart data and dynamic domain perception, all to control a voyage from start to finish.

Furthermore, the SM300 provides the remote human commanders with an active chart environment with live augmented overlays showing the mission, state of vessel, situational awareness and environmental data, as well as real-time, vessel-born audio and video from many streaming cameras.

Throughout the voyage the Nellie Bly will carry two professional mariners and occasional guest passengers. It will call on ports along the route to display and demonstrate the technology.

The remotely commanded commercial voyage aims to cover 1,000 nautical miles in a multi-week trial

The project, named the Machine Odyssesy, is designed to prove that the world’s waterways are ready for long-range autonomy. The team hopes to demonstrate to companies that operate the fleets of cargo ships, tugs, ferries and other types of commercial workboats, that operators can integrate autonomous technology into their vessel operations.

According to the project, its solution provides a host of technology-driven benefits, from enhanced safety and reliability to leaps in productivity and new on-water capabilities.

“Just as other land-based industries shift repetitive, manual drudgery from human to predictable robotic systems, our autonomous technology elevates humans from controller to commander with most of the direct continuous control effort being managed by technology,” said Michael Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines.

“This recast human-technology relationship is the basis of a new era of at-sea operations and will give on-water industries the tools and capability to be much more competitive, end the erosion of high-value cargo to air and road, put more vessels on water, operate in better harmony with the natural ocean environment and deliver new products and services.”

Sea Machines will stream the journey live on a website dedicated to The Machine Odyssey for all to have access to updates from the sea, the crew, the command centre, and more.

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