Boston-headquartered Sea Machines Robotics is about to send a tugboat to circumnavigate Denmark on a multi-week 1,000 nautical mile remotely commanded commercial voyage, the latest chapter in shipping’s autonomous journey.
The Machine Odyssey project will see a tugboat called Nellie Bly depart from Hamburg on September 30, with full onboard vessel control managed by autonomous technology, while operating under the authority of commanding officers located in the US. The voyage will be streamed live.
“The voyage marks a landfall moment for autonomous transportation and is slated to prove that the world’s waterways are primed and ready for long-range autonomy,” Sea Machines stated in a release.
This recast human-technology relationship is the basis of a new era of at-sea operations
The tug is named after an American journalist, industrialist, inventor and charity worker who was widely known for her record-breaking solo trip around the world in 72 days.
“From time immemorial the oceans have driven the best of human innovation, designed and built by architects and engineers, and deployed by a select and special group of people, mariners, that much of society relies on today and evermore in the future for the supply of food, power, water, goods and transport. And as a technology space leader, Sea Machines takes it as our duty to embark into new waters, motor through any and all fog of uncertainty, and prove the value within our planned technology course,” said Michael Johnson, CEO of Sea Machines. “Just as other land-based industries shift repetitive, manual drudgery from human to predictable robotic systems, our autonomous technology elevates humans from controller to commander with most of the direct continuous control effort being managed by technology. This recast human-technology relationship is the basis of a new era of at-sea operations and will give on-water industries the tools and capability to be much more competitive, end the erosion of high-value cargo to air and road, put more vessels on water, operate in better harmony with the natural ocean environment and deliver new products and services.”
Throughout the voyage the Nellie Bly will carry two professional mariners and occasional guest passengers and will call on ports along the route to display and demonstrate the technology.