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Sea Machines embarks on world’s first autonomous, remotely commanded voyage by an Ocean Tugboat

Photo: Sea Machines' autonomous tugboat Nellie Bly (photo credit: Arie Boer)
n a milestone moment slated to prove that the world’s waterways are primed and ready for autonomous technology, Sea Machines will circumnavigate Denmark on a 1,000 nautical mile remotely commanded commercial voyage.
Sea Machines will embark on a 1,000 nautical mile autonomous and remotely commanded journey around Denmark later this month. Named The Machine Odyssey, 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.
The Machine Odyssey will 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.

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 they 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.

Watch as a mariner remotely commands and controls an autonomous workboat from her desk, safely ensuring it delivered cargo in the U.S.
At the helm will be the Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomy system which will also utilize the latest in Sea Machines’ industry leading long-range computer vision. The SM300 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, and real-time vessel-born audio and video from the many streaming cameras.

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 in many ways exemplifies the attitude and journey of an American venture-backed deep-tech startup such as Sea Machines. The selected vessel, a modern ubiquitous tug designed and built by Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands, is named the Nellie Bly, paying 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.

Throughout the voyage, 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.