Tuesday, September 14, 2021

New Record Breaking Long Distance Autonomous Voyage Announced

Tug Will Travel 1,000 Nautical Miles Under Robotic Control
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – DENMARK – US – In a remarkable voyage due to embark on 1 October an autonomous vessel is set to make the first trip of 1,000 nautical miles, and this under the control of commanding officers situated over 3,500 miles away!

The planned excursion is the latest test for US start up group Sea Machines Robotics, Boston based developer of autonomous command and control systems for the maritime industry. Aptly named the Machine Odyssey, the voyage marks a landfall moment for autonomous transportation and is slated to prove that the world’s waterways are primed and ready for long-range autonomy.

The chosen name harks back to Homer’s Odyssey which for millennia has inspired humanity by Ulysses’ and his crew’s courage to undertake a voyage of discovery and adventure, although the actual vessel carrying out the test will be a modern tug designed and built by Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands and named the Nellie Bly, paying homage to the American journalist, industrialist, inventor, and charity worker who was widely known for her ultra-bold and a record-breaking solo trip around the world in 72 days.

The Machine Odyssey will depart from Hamburg, Germany on October 1st with full on board vessel control managed by autonomous technology allowing human passengers on board to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technology and designed to prove it can work for commercial, government, and recreational purposes.

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

Overseeing the voyage as it continues will be officers based in the US, and the SM300 provides the remote human commanders with an active chart environment with live augmented overlays showing the mission, state of the vessel, situational awareness and environmental data, and real-time vessel-born audio and video from the many streaming cameras. 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.”

Sea Machines tell us they will stream the journey live on a website dedicated to the Machine Odyssey for all to have access to 24/7 updates from the sea, the crew, the command centre, and more.