Autonomous Tugboat to Undertake Thousand-Mile Voyage

By Mike Ball / 15 Sep 2021
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Sea Machines autonomous vessel

Sea Machines Robotics has confirmed that its SM300 maritime autonomy system will help to enable a 1,000 nautical mile autonomous and remotely commanded journey around Denmark undertaken by an unmanned tugboat. The project, dubbed The Machine Odyssey, aims to prove that the world’s waterways are capable of supporting long-range autonomy and that the integration of autonomous technologies can provide enhanced safety, reliability and productivity.

The autonomous tugboat, designed and built by Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands, is named the Nellie Bly. It will depart from Hamburg, Germany with full onboard vessel control managed by autonomous technology, while operating under the authority of commanding officers located in the United States.

The SM300 is a comprehensive sensor-to-propeller autonomy system that uses advanced path-planning, obstacle avoidance replanning, vectored nautical chart data and dynamic domain perception. The system provides 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. Safety of ship, crew and cargo is paramount within the Sea Machines’ autonomy stack, with protection behaviors that enable users to optimize operations with assurance and an exacting balance of safety, productivity and efficiency.

Throughout the voyage the Nellie Bly will carry two professional mariners and occasional guest passengers, and will call on ports along the route to display and demonstrate the technology. Sea Machines will stream the journey live on a website dedicated to The Machine Odyssey, providing 24/7 updates from the sea, the crew, the command center, and more.

Michael Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines, commented: “From time immemorial the oceans have driven the best of human innovation, designed and built by architects and engineers, and deployed by a select and special group of people, mariners, that much of society relies on today and evermore in the future for the supply of food, power, water, goods and transport. And as a technology space leader, Sea Machines takes it as our duty to embark into new waters, motor through any and all fog of uncertainty, and prove the value within our planned technology course.”

“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. 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.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact