Still-developing technology and markets for autonomous vessels could take the infant sector in unexpected directions, two leading-edge providers said Wednesday at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans.
Thinking about mating solar energy panels and electric drives to autonomous patrol boats raises the prospect of picket vessels with ultra-long endurance, said Chris Allard, CEO of Metal Shark, which this year unveiled its first Defender-class patrol vessel equipped with ASV Global technology.
“If you take away the two to four gallons per hour for stationkeeping, we’ve done scenarios where it’s startlingly close to infinite,” said Allard.
Autonomous functions will complement navigation bridge crews, effectively extending eyes and ears with their sensors, said Michael Johnson, founder and CEO of Sea Machines with offices in Boston and Hamburg.
Sea Machines is now working with Maersk on trialing autonomous technology in that role on a crewed containership in the Baltic. Johnson and Allard say the technology can apply as a smart autopilot, alerting human operators to changing vessel conditions and external factors.