Maiden voyage of the first long-haul autonomous tugboat

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Nelly Bailey is currently about three-quarters through its mission: to become the first autonomously powered tugboat to complete the long haul.

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why it matters: While many tugs are already using autonomous technology for short ship-to-shore runs, it will be much cheaper and easier for long-range vessels – such as oil tankers, container ships and ocean-bottom survey boats – to be autonomous. To use Tug as their scouts.

running news: A Boston-based company called Sea Machines Robotics – a pioneer in autonomous tug technology – has outfitted a 36-foot tugboat with self-driving equipment called the Nellie Bailey, which Denmark needs to be operational, for 1,000 marines. More than a mile traveled (approximately 1,150 regular miles).

  • Nellie Bailey departed on 30 September and is expected to arrive at her destination on 16 October. (Fans can follow its progress a dashboard Including a live stream when the boat is moving.)
  • A typical tugboat has people walking around with their hands on the wheel at all times. There are only two people in Nellie Bailey – for “safety and redundancy” – while a team from a control room in Boston keeps the boat running.
  • So far, “we’ve been able to operate 90% autonomously,” Amelia Smith, spokeswoman for Sea Machines Robotics, tells Nerdshala. “There have been times when people have joined [in controlling the vessel], and that’s fine.”
  • NS nelly bailey – which is pushing a barge from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Hamburg, Germany – has already avoided 117 obstacles that could have been a potential collision.

big picture: Michael G. Johnson, CEO of Sea Machine Robotics, tells Nerdshala, “The ability to rely on computer-powered tugs for long-distance ocean voyages is “going to make the industry more productive” and “a lot more ships on the water.” to keep”.

  • Autonomous tugs could make a big difference for ships that clean up oil spills, survey the ocean floor for wind farms, and transport cargo around the world (such as those currently piling up at US ports). .
  • “We are proving that we can command the same voyage through a remote commander, someone who is not on the tug itself,” Johnson said. “We aim to have 99% of continuous control efforts being managed by the autonomous system.”
  • The idea is that “the man has been elevated above someone who is staring out the windows and holding the wheel while traveling, who is now in charge of the operation.”

Bottom-line: The lack of tides, water currents and marked lanes make autonomous driving very different in water than on pavement, but computer-controlled boating is developing at the same pace as automakers are pursuing automated vehicles.

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