Tug Completes First Autonomous 1000 NM Voyage To Europe

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Nellie Bly docked in Hamburg at the end of her record-breaking voyage (Sea Machines)

Posted on October 22, 2021 at 7:24 PM by

The maritime executive

The tugboat Nellie bly completed the world’s first 1,000 nautical mile autonomous voyage, marking a milestone in the use of computer vision and autonomous technology to circumnavigate Denmark and collect vital waterway data. Using a system developed by Sea Machines Robotics of Boston, the trip was completed in just 129 operational hours over 13 days. The program was commanded by licensed US Coast Guard sailors stationed 3,000 miles away in Boston, many of whom are also members of the United States Maritime Officers’ Union.

“The completion of this voyage marks the catalyst for a new era of offshore operations,” said Michael Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines. “Autonomous remotely controlled vessels provide the maritime industries with the platform to compete in the modern world, offering significant increases in productivity and operational safety, digitized ultra-efficiency and speed of response, and will provide a new world of actionable operational data for better planning and business practices. The Machine Odyssey marks the start of a new human-technology relationship propelling sea operations into the 21st century. “

The Nellie bly used long-range computer vision, the first of its kind, based on AI and a sensor-propeller autonomy system. Its technical characteristics allowed trajectory planning, perception of the active domain, dynamic obstacles, traffic avoidance and re-planning, depth detection and the fusion of vector nautical chart data. Sea Machines reports that 96.9% of the 1,027 mile voyage was completed under fully autonomous control. During the trip, they performed 31 collision avoidance and traffic separation maneuvers.

Nellie Bly has sailed the waterways of Germany and Denmark operated from Boston (Sea Machines)

The trip has begun in Cuxhaven, Germany, and transited through the Kiel Canal before reaching the northernmost points of Denmark. The tug returned safe and sound to Hamburg, Germany, last week.

Using multi-sensor fusion, the system digitally perceived over 12,000 square miles of ocean space more accurately and comprehensively than comparable human operators. According to Sea Machines, this successful stand-alone operation demonstrates that with this technology, the world’s fleets can sail the oceans in a more predictable and safer way, while optimizing the global supply chain by providing much more transportation. efficient and productive than what exists today. .

Throughout the voyage, the tug reached an average speed of 7.9 knots. Sea Machines has collected 3.8TB of critical operational data showing how ships can easily connect as IOT systems in the cloud economy. The system also provided remote commanders in Boston with an active map of the environment and live augmented overlays showing mission progress, ship condition, domain situational awareness, on-board audio in real time and streaming video from many cameras.

“Autonomy sets in faster on waterways than on roads,” Johnson said. “Our autonomous systems are already supporting vessel operations around the world with manned and unmanned capabilities. We are rapidly reorganizing the maritime industries with advanced perception, a self-piloting system and connected vessel intelligence. The Machine Odyssey was a success and we believe we will soon see autonomy become commonplace.

Nellie Bly Pilot House (Sea Machines)

Team in Boston commanding the tug (Sea Machines)


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