Autonomous Boat Completes Cargo Run in Europe
May 10: An autonomous boat has completed a cargo run from the UK to Belgium.
The Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) SEA-KIT Maxlimer was the first commercial autonomous ship to cross the North Sea when it completed the journey from West Mersea to Oostende and back, according to a press release.
The unmanned ship began its journey to Belgium carrying oysters — and returned to the UK with a consignment of beer, as reported by BBC.
Moving slowly at just a few knots, the boat completed the first half of its voyage with 5 kg, or around 11 pounds of oysters in 22 hours. The vessel has the ability to carry around 2.5 tons of cargo, however.
A wide range of technology made the 12 meter, or roughly 39 foot, boat’s journey possible in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Using a system called Global Situational Awareness via internet, the boat was able to communicate with an operator who could access CCTV footage, thermal imaging and radar from the vessel. An operator can also listen to the vessel’s surroundings in real-time and communicate with others in the area.
SEA-KIT was developed using the Kongsberg Maritime Hugin AUV System entry to the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE — which is a global competition where teams compete to advance ocean technologies for exploration.
Environmental missions, hydrographic surveys, marine safety and security and transit are some of the boat’s many capabilities that shows the potential of autonomous boats, Ben Simpson of SEA-KIT International Ltd. said in a statement.
“The vessel can be transported in a single 40ft container, drastically reducing the mobilisation costs, and being truly uncrewed means SEA-KIT can conduct its missions without placing any human personnel in harm’s way and at significantly reduced rate,” a statement from SEA-KIT International said.
Being able to complete missions without a crew also allows the opportunity for trips to be completed without putting humans in harm’s way.
SEA-KIT’s journey, meant to showcase its capabilities, was made possible through the help of UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the UK Department for Transport, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, partners in Belgium, and the European Space Agency.