An autonomous vessel has been developed in the US to transport pilots to awaiting ships for port berthing and navigation
Shipbuilder Metal Shark and Sea Machines partnered to produce a 9.5-m Sharktech autonomous vessel.
Sharktech 29 Defiant has a welded-aluminium monohull and Sea Machines autonomous and remote-control technology for mobilising pilots to ships.
This can be used for manned, reduced-crew or unmanned autonomous operations with computer-driven navigation that features active control and collision avoidance.
Sharktech 29 Defiant has twin outboard engines that power this vessel to top speeds of 45 knots.
Metal Shark chief executive Chris Allard thinks Sea Machines’ technology could be rapidly installed on any Sharktech in its stock of ready-to-purchase vessels.
“We have developed a turn-key autonomous production model to be kept in our regular stock rotation and available for near-immediate delivery,” Mr Allard said.
“We founded Sharktech in 2018 to streamline the customer’s path to autonomy by bridging the gap between the industry’s autonomous software developers and the traditional shipbuilder.”
Sea Machines founder and chief executive Michael Johnson said this autonomous vessel technology is ready for applications in commercial marine markets, such as in pilot vessels.
“Commercial operators and government users alike will benefit from increased operational productivity and safety,” said Mr Johnson.
“And will gain capabilities such as force multiplication, collaborative vessel operations and remote payload control. All of this allows operators to do more with less.”
Sharktech 29 Defiant can be commanded from shore by a Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous control and monitoring system.
The vessel and its onboard systems can be monitored and controlled via network connections from a shoreside station or a second vessel, within a 2-km range.
There are also user interfaces on the vessel for manual control when autonomy mode is not required.
Local situational awareness is provided to the remote operator via streaming video, electronic navigational charts, radar, AIS information and live environmental and deck machinery condition feeds.
Sea Machines’ autonomous package also includes advanced mission planning, while routine software updates allow for system enhancements as additional refinements are made.
Sea Machines and Metal Shark recently demonstrated the autonomous navigation technology used on a Sharktech 29 Defiant.
In August 2019, a remotely controlled vessel was successfully tested in the US for oil spill response.
Trials organised by the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD) validated using autonomous vessels to recover spilled oil in ports.
Sea Machines used remote control systems on a Marine Spill Response Corp (MSRC) skimmer boat to demonstrate its capabilities during tests in Portland harbour in Maine, US.
These trials open a new era in using unmanned vessels to increase the safety, productivity and predictability of response during marine oil-spill operations.
Video of the demonstration of an autonomous Sharktech 29 Defiant