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Wednesday, September 15, 2021 

US company Sea Machines hopes to prove that the oceans and waterways are ready for autonomous technology, by circumnavigating Denmark on a 1,000 naut mile remotely commanded commercial voyage.

The project, named The Machine Odyssey, will depart from Hamburg, Germany, with full onboard vessel control managed by autonomous technology, while operating under the authority of commanding officers located in the US. The selected vessel, a modern tug designed and built by Damen Shipyards, the Nellie Bly, will integrate autonomous technology into its vessel operations. Sea Machines expects to showcase various technology-driven benefits, from enhanced safety and reliability to leaps in productivity and new on-water capabilities.

At the helm will be a Sea Machines SM300 autonomy system, which will employ Sea Machines’ latest 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, to control a voyage from start to finish. The SM300 provides remote human commanders with an active chart environment with live augmented overlays showing the mission, state of vessel, situational awareness and environmental data, as well as real-time, vessel-born audio and video from streaming cameras.

Michael Johnson, CEO, Sea Machines, said: “From time immemorial the oceans have driven the best of human innovation, designed and built by architects and engineers, and deployed by a select and special group of people, mariners, that much of society relies on today and evermore in the future for the supply of food, power, water, goods and transport.  And as a technology space leader, Sea Machines takes it as our duty to embark into new waters, motor through any and all fog of uncertainty, and prove the value within our planned technology course. Just as other land-based industries shift repetitive, manual drudgery from human to predictable robotic systems, our autonomous technology elevates humans from controller to commander with most of the direct continuous control effort being managed by technology. This recast human-technology relationship is the basis of a new era of at-sea operations and will give on-water industries the tools and capability to be much more competitive, end the erosion of high-value cargo to air and road, put more vessels on water, operate in better harmony with the natural ocean environment and deliver new products and services.”

Throughout the voyage the Nellie Bly will carry two professional mariners and occasional guest passengers and will call at ports along the route to display and demonstrate the technology. Sea Machines will stream the journey live on a website dedicated to The Machine Odyssey.

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