Japanese marine engineering company Yanmar reports that it has begun testing a range of autonomous ship systems, combining its experience in maritime hardware with a range of newly developed IT and robotics technologies to create unmanned vessel systems that it says could be applied to operations in dangerous waters, to maritime surveys, or to smart fisheries.
The company has created a Robotic Boat demonstration vehicle built with Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP), which will be operated as an Autonomous Surface Vehicle by the Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology, to conduct marine resources monitoring.
Future activities for the robot vessel will include further marine-based testing with universities and research institutes, before the programme is expanded to explore commercial use by industry partners.
The autonomous piloting technology used by the robotic boat has also been developed into an auto-docking system that can be integrated into commercial vessels, fishing vessels or marine pleasure craft, Yanmar says.
The auto-docking system utilises RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GNSS technology, which gathers precise satellite positioning information from a known point to the vessel, to provide accurate real-time positioning. This is then combined with corrective data from Yanmar’s own digital repeater system to improve positioning precision even further, to accurately direct the vessel into the designated dock or location.
Deployment of the auto-docking system on commercial vessels and on recreational marine and fishing vessels in Japan is expected to commence after 2020, with research into the core robotic boat technology continuing in the meantime, the company said.