Drone Ships: A not so distant maritime future

in Trends by
Credits: IBM

There’s no denying that advancements in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAS) technology are affecting every sphere of our lives, ranging from agriculture & filmmaking to security and communications down to logistics.

With growing worldwide interest in commercial, scientific, and military issues associated with both oceans and shallow waters, there has been a corresponding growth in demand for the development of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) with advanced guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) capabilities.

Spearheading the efforts to make sea travel safer, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly is the use of drone technology in the maritime industry.

What’s more is: USVs are much more than being cost-effective for shipping companies around the world. They can help us reduce the carbon footprint emitted by shipping companies worldwide, a move that IMO has been hoping to achieve by 2050.

Some in the industry view USVs as more akin to futuristic science fiction. However, the concept of unmanned vessels isn’t new to the world. In his patent for ‘‘Method of and apparatus for controlling mechanism of moving vessels or vehicles.’’ dated November 8, 1898, Nikola Tesla had foreseen drones to rule the future skies and waters.

Today, innovators are not only developing USV technology but are also conducting on-the-water testing of USVs. As a result, the potential applications and benefits of unmanned technologies are driving investment and shaping the conversation of both regulators and the industry.

USV Maxlimer

Credit: Sonardyne International

By far the most impressive USV on this list is USV Maxlimer. History was created in August 2020 when Maxlimer completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic, being the first unmanned vessel to do so. USV Maxlimer is a semi-autonomous unmanned surface vehicle operated by the British company SEA-KIT. She was the winning entry in the Ocean Discovery XPrize competition, and subsequently has been used as a proof-of-concept vessel for underwater mapping. The company has been making further progress into the world of USV and ocean mapping. The world’s leading Geo-data specialist FUGRO, has already announced their strategic partnership with SEA-KIT International to develop a new range of agile and compact uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) which can deploy remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for marine asset inspections.

Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) project

Credits: University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies Team (HIT) via IBM

What happens when some of the biggest names in the shipping industry join hands with some of the biggest players in the automation and IT industry? It’s Mayflower and a trans-Atlantic voyage, fully autonomous!

The project involves IBM, ProMare and the Finnish Wärtsilä to develop one of the world’s full autonomous ships.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) is one of the most high-profile initiatives striving to revolutionize a 10,000-year-old transportation format. Any breakthrough in this project has the possibility to massively transform the way commercial shipping operates.

The tech giant’s vision recognition systems will track down other ships, debris, whales, and icebergs, whilst being commanded by an AI-enabled captain in the journey from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

Visit FleetMon.com for more maritime News on the Mayflower autonomous shipping project.