Sea trials are set to commence on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will enable the world’s first transatlantic crossing of an unmanned vessel
IBM Edge and Promare will test the AI Captain technology to be deployed on the Mayflower Autonomous Ship in sea trials on a manned research vessel off the coast of Plymouth, UK in March.
If everything goes to plan, Mayflower will use AI Captain to sail from Plymouth, UK, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, US, in September 2020. AI Captain uses cameras, edge computing and AI to safely navigate vessels around ships, buoys and other ocean hazards.
Mayflower Autonomous Ship chief technology officer Don Scott said this will be used with IBM’s cloud facilities for data storage and processing. “We are aiming to give Mayflower the ability to operate independently in some of the most challenging circumstances on the planet,” he said.
Trials in March will test a vessel’s ability to use AI and edge computing to safely sense, think and make navigation decisions in sea conditions without human intervention.
AI Captain will be tested on manned research vessel Plymouth Quest by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. This vessel’s crew will determine how the technology performs in real-world maritime scenarios in Smart Sound Plymouth and provide feedback to developers to refine machine learning models.
Edge computing and machine learning will be important for Mayflower’s self-navigation as the vessel will not have access to high-bandwidth connectivity throughout its transatlantic voyage.
It will use a fully autonomous IBM edge computing system powered by several onboard Nvidia Jetson embedded computing boards to increase the speed of decision making and reduce the amount of data flow and storage on the vessel.
Mayflower’s AI Captain will independently detect and classify ships, buoys and other hazards, such as land, breakwaters and debris. During its transatlantic voyage, Mayflower’s operational decision manager will follow the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and IMO’s SOLAS rules for safe navigation.
AI Captain will use forecast data from The Weather Company to assist navigation decision making. It will also use a safety manager, running on IBM’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux, to review decisions to ensure they are safe for Mayflower and surrounding vessels.
This will be the first true test of autonomous vessel technology as trials and operations to date only include small unmanned surface vessels in local environments and developments for decision support on manned ships.
For example, passenger shipping company Bastø Fosen has started using automatic control on a ferry operating in Oslo fjord, Norway.
Bastø Fosen VI will now use adaptive transit functions developed from Kongsberg Maritime’s advanced systems to enhance the daily operation of its Horten-Moss service, while continuing to carry a full complement of crew.