Sea Machines Robotics, developer of autonomous command and control systems for the maritime industry, has completed the world’s first 1,000+ nautical miles autonomous and remotely commanded journey of a commercial vessel at sea.
Under the project name The Machine Odyssey, the autonomous tug Nellie Bly completed its journey in 129 operational hours over 13 days. The program was commanded by U.S. Coast Guard-licensed mariners remotely stationed 3,600 miles away in Boston.
“The completion of this voyage marks the catalyst for a new era of at-sea operations,” said Michael Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines.
“Remotely-commanded autonomous vessels provide the industry with significant increases in productivity and operational safety and will provide a new world of actionable operational data for improved planning and business practices. The Machine Odyssey signals the start of a new human-technology relationship propelling on-sea operations in the 21st century.”
The Nellie Bly employed AI-enabled long-range computer vision and a sensor-to-propeller autonomy system, the Sea Machines’ SM300. Its technical features allowed for path-planning, active domain perception, dynamic obstacle, and traffic avoidance and replanning, depth sensing, and fusion of vectored nautical chart data.
The project saw 96.9% of the 1,027 mile journey accomplished under fully autonomous control and the SM300 successfully executed 31 collision-avoidance and traffic separation manoeuvres.
Using multi-sensor fusion, the system digitally perceived over 12,000 square miles of ocean space more accurately and comprehensively than comparable human operators, according to Sea Machines.
The team added this successful autonomous operation demonstrates that with this technology the world’s fleets can ply the oceans in a more predictable and safer manner.
Throughout the voyage, the tug averaged a speed of 7.9 knots and Sea Machines garnered 3.8TB of essential operational data showcasing how the ships can readily connect as IOT systems into the cloud economy. The SM300 also provided the remote commanders in Boston with an active chart of the environment and live augmented overlays showing the progress of the mission, state of the vessel, situational awareness of the domain, real-time vessel-borne audio, and video from many streaming cameras.
“Autonomy will take hold faster on the waterways than it is on roadways,” added Johnson. “Our autonomous systems are already supporting vessel operations around the world in manned and unmanned capacities. We are rapidly retooling the marine industries with an advanced perception, self-piloting system, and connected vessel intelligence. The Machine Odyssey was a success and we believe we will soon see autonomy become commonplace.”