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Sea Machines prepares vessel for 1,000 mile autonomous voyage

The selected vessel is named the Nellie Bly. Image courtesy of Arie Boer, Marine Traffic The selected vessel is named the Nellie Bly. Image courtesy of Arie Boer, Marine Traffic

Sea Machines Robotics will embark on a 1,000 nautical mile autonomous and remotely commanded journey around Denmark later this month.

The project, known as The Machine Odyssey, will see the modern ubiquitous tug named the Nellie Bly depart from Hamburg, Germany, on September 30, with full onboard vessel control managed by autonomous technology, while operating under the authority of commanding officers located in the United States.

The vessel has been designed and built by Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands and its name, Nellie Bly, pays homage to the American journalist, industrialist, inventor and charity worker who was widely known for her ultra-bold and record-breaking solo trip around the world in 72 days.

The project is named The Machine Odyssey, which translates to a long purpose-driven and eventful journey and harks to Homer’s Odyssey, which for millennia has inspired humanity by Ulysses’ and his crew’s courage to undertake a voyage of discovery and adventure.

This voyage will prove to the world, and specifically to the thousands of global companies that operate the fleets of cargo ships, tugs, ferries and the many other types of commercial workboats, that operators can integrate autonomous technology into their vessel operations for a host of technology-driven benefits, from enhanced safety and reliability to leaps in productivity and new on-water capabilities. The Machine Odyssey marks a new era in the human-technology relationship propelling on-sea operations in the 21st century.

Sea Machines SM300 autonomy system will be installed onboard the vessel. It is a comprehensive sensor-to-propeller autonomy system that uses advanced path-planning, obstacle avoidance replanning, vectored nautical chart data and dynamic domain perception, all to control a voyage from start to finish.

The SM300 provides the remote human commanders with an active chart environment with live augmented overlays showing the mission, state of vessel, situational awareness and environmental data, as well as real-time, vessel-born audio and video from many streaming cameras.

“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. Sea Machines will stream the journey live on a website dedicated to The Machine Odyssey for all to have access to 24/7 updates from the sea, the crew, the command centre, and more.

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