Sea Machines Robotics selected Pinpoint to act as their UK dealer. Pinpoint therefore represent Sea Machines by promoting, supplying and installing their autonomous solutions.

Sally Dale, director of Pinpoint Electronics Limited, represents Sea Machines during this week’s conference. NEXTGEN brings together international expertise to blend traditional and innovative solutions that improve safety and efficiency. in the maritime workplace.

Pinpoint delivers an overview about how autonomous marine technology can improve the safety of dull, dirty and dangerous tasks :

Autonomy in Different Sectors

The maritime sector has had the opportunity however to gain extensive knowledge from other sectors. Predominantly these vehicles are used to replace humans in hazardous situations or where additional strength or smaller size is needed, or where humans cannot easily go. 

They are widely used in industries such as the military, agriculture, mining , construction, peacekeeping operations and exploration such as NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers . Furthermore, UGVs are now being used in rescue and recovery missions and were first used to find survivors following 9/11.

The driverless car is being pioneered by some of the largest companies in the world including Google, and small unmanned aircraft are being considered as a delivery method for global retailers including Amazon.

Beneath the surface Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) operate independently of direct human input. ROV technology was developed in the 1960s – 

Autonomy in the Marine Environment

This is a new technology for an industry that’s been operating the same way for a long time. It is highly manual, hazardous, the number of vessels are increasing, humans are easily distracted with the pace of life and human error still accounts for a large proportion of marine accidents.

There has been an influx of new technologies into the ship’s bridge in recent years and this has altered the tasks performed by the crew.

Multiple systems must often be used simultaneously, increasing the task demands on operators. The solution to manage this increasing quantity and diversity of information are for more tasks to be automated.

Tesla once said, “The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.” in response to the crowd’s stunned disbelief upon viewing his Remote Control Boat in 1898.

Benefits

The main reasons for autonomous technology is its ability to provide improved performance and productivity. What is however foreseen is an autonomous system working on behalf of a captain, mate or helmsman to empower operations with vessel intelligence and to de-risk and elevate overall vessel performance. 

It is not foreseen that heavy cargo and offshore vessels will be operating unmanned in the foreseeable future. The first applications for autonomous vessel technology is being used in routine or dangerous tasks, such as long-duration data collection by survey vessel , fire vessels and oil spill response activity.

Here is an example of where I believe would have been a perfect scenario to deploy a smaller unmanned vessel, under close control of the support / mothership: 

Example

In May 2000, HMS Chatham, a Type 22 frigate, was part of the Amphibious Ready Group sent to the coast of Sierra Leone to oversee the evacuation of British, EU and Commonwealth nationals as part of a peace-keeping operation – Chatham’s mission was to land Royal Marines and provide gunfire support.  

The operation was high risk in many ways …

Danger

HMS Chatham, (148m length, draught 6.4m and was 5,300 tonnes) had to navigate her way up Sierra Leone River into shoal areas, to get close inshore to bring her 4.5inch gun within effective range. Most of the river hadn’t been surveyed, the bits that had, hadn’t been chartered since the 60’s. And all chartered buoyage had been removed . The typography was mangrove swamps making it impossible to conduct radar pilotage accurately. Chatham, and her 200 + strong crew, went to action stations early afternoon. 

There were fire fights seen on the shore early evening towards Lunghi Airport as we drew closer to the estuary. HMS Chatham spent the night very slowly navigating the river whilst following a landing craft to aid our safe passage, to get into position . There was a curfew on the river so we had to turn our navigation lights off , this included the landing craft making it even more challenging. The landing craft was using their echo sounder and communicating these soundings back to us by radio. She successfully got into position early hours of the morning…… it was an extremely slow transit as you would imagine. 

Dull

Hydrography by its very nature is ideally suited for marine autonomy – the predetermined routes, the repetitive scanning, inshore coastal surveys and more ..

The Sea Machines collaborative work feature also means operators can now coordinate multiple boats to follow the same planned path, at set distances apart, enabling unprecedented surface coverage ….. which is key to SAR operations. 

Dirty 

These combined efforts can reduce response times and increase effectiveness, compared to traditional methods. Unmanned marine assets can perform more aggressive manoeuvres and can inch closer to the danger without putting your High Value Unit  / Mothership at risk. The benefits are also ideal for oil spills and for extinguishing fires.

When operators’ boats are equipped with complimentary technology, such as FLIR thermal imaging systems, autonomous workboats can respond more accurately to incidents, 24/7, in nearly all sea states and conditions – reducing human risk and increasing efficiency.

19 years on had Chatham been able to use today’s autonomous control technologies, like the Sea Machines workboat system to survey the river ahead of us, under close control of the mothership, the operation would have been de-risked to a large extent.

NEXT GEN 2019 – PROGRAMME