Move over –self driving cars, boats can now drive themselves. Marine technology startups are now focusing on building and testing self driving boats
Sea Machines Robotics Inc is a three year old company which is developing computer systems to make boats either remote-controllable or autonomous. The boats are taught to drive themselves and deal with the various challenges that may be present in the waters.
The company bought an old boat from the coast guard at a government auction and then modified it to include the self driving technology. It was painted bright yellow and had the words ‘Unmanned Vehicle’ in big letters across it. Cameras and a GPS unit make it possible for remote users to have a real time view of the boat and its surroundings. The vessel was named Steadfast.
While self driving boats have not been discussed as much as self driving cars they are now becoming more popular in the water and shipping companies are spending funds on research and development to bring the technology to their larger scale operations.
Apart from self driving boats, marine startups are also developing diving drones and other types of robots which can work underwater. Experts say that self driving boats don’t work on remote sensing alone rather they follow a course based on a specific script and responding to the environment. Autonomous systems make it possible for navigation and the boat’s control system to be controlled by a computer. Programs can be written for specific vehicles and purposes.
Underwater robots are a big business too. Surprisingly they are a bigger market than the self driving boats and are expected to hit $4.6 billion in 2020. The biggest user of these underwater boats remains the military.
However startups which are working on the self driving boats are looking for new ways their technology can be utilized. The autonomous technology can be used to control multiple tugs that bring in a large container ship at the same time and create a more harmonious process.
The technology will be useful to oil companies and other shipping companies alike and will fulfill purposes that can vary. Unmanned boats can also be sent out into the sea for long durations at a time and can be used for gathering data even in bad weather.
Unmanned boats draw curious questions from other boats since they have not become a regular sight yet. The company receives questions about the nature of the boat from passersby who want to know more about its ‘unmanned’ status.
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