Autonomous vessel tech to be trialled for oil spill response

Boston-based Sea Machines Robotics has entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) to examine how its autonomous vessel technology could be used to assist in marine oil-spill response operations.

Sea Machines will install its SM300 autonomous-command system aboard a Marine Spill Response Corp. (MSRC)-owned MARCO skimming vessel and train MSRC personnel to operate the system, ahead of an August 21 simulated oil-spill recovery exercise in the harbour of Portland, Maine.

The response skimming vessel is equipped with a MARCO filter belt skimmer to recover oil from the surface of the water and typically operates in coastal or near-shore areas. Once installed, Sea Machines’ SM300 system will provide remote autonomous control of the vessel, from an onshore location or secondary vessel, as well as autonomous waypoint tracking and grid line tracking.

The system also includes wireless remote payload control to deploy the onboard boom and other response equipment, and is capable of proactive obstacle detection and collision avoidance.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our personnel at MSRC,” said John Swift, Vice President, MSRC.

“The ability to use autonomous technology – allowing response operations to continue in an environment where their safety may be at risk – furthers our mission of response preparedness.”