United Arab Emirates (UAE) is taking a technology lead in autonomous surface vessel systems
Abu Dhabi Ports is working with naval architects Robert Allan to develop autonomous commercial marine tugs. Together they will research and produce a remotely-controlled tugboat that could be fully unmanned and operate within a wide spectrum of autonomy.
Its maritime service arm, Safeen, will operate the tugs, expanding its fleet of harbour service vessels. Abu Dhabi Ports intends to transfer the human element from on board these tugs to onshore, enabling these vessels to operate in more adverse weather conditions.
Chairman Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi said this agreement strengthens the UAE’s reputation as a leading centre for digital innovation. “This agreement marks a milestone in our digital transformation. Abu Dhabi Ports priority is to lead the charge towards digitalising the region’s maritime operations,” he added.
Group chief executive Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi said these autonomous tugs would “enhance performance efficiency, productivity, transparency and safety” and reduce operating costs. “Our co-operation with Robert Allan to develop a new generation of tugboats equipped with superior capabilities and modern technologies reflects our commitment to ensuring the infrastructure at Abu Dhabi Ports is at the cutting edge,” he said.
In another development, UAE-based Marakeb Technologies has secured an agreement to develop unmanned autonomous vessels for the armed and security forces of Saudi Arabia in collaboration with the Prince Sultan Defense Studies & Research Center in Saudi Arabia.
Marakeb Technologies will provide its MAP Pro technology to produce autonomous underwater and surface vessels. This will be combined with radar, electronic warfare, electro-optics, communications and other related technologies for these vessels.
Outside of the region, autonomous maritime security company ThayerMahan has partnered with iXblue, which specialises in navigation, acoustic positioning and underwater imaging.
These companies will provide unmanned maritime and survey services using iXblue’s DriX unmanned surface vehicles for survey applications in maritime and offshore energy, for hydrocarbons and renewables, and for hydrographic surveys, ocean research, monitoring and tracking operations.
iXblue has sold five of its DriX units to UAE-headquartered Unique Group for geophysical and hydrographic surveys, subsea positioning and tracking operations.
Earlier this month, Promare and IBM started marine trials of the AI Captain, an artificial intelligence technology that will be deployed on the first autonomous vessel to attempt a transatlantic voyage. AI Captain will be tested on manned research vessel Plymouth Quest by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory off southern England.
It will be installed on to Mayflower, which will use AI Captain to sail from Plymouth, UK, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, US, from September 2020.