On September 30, 2021, Sea Machines set out to prove that the world’s waterways are primed and ready for autonomy by undertaking the longest autonomous journey at sea, 1,000 NM. Autonomy is retooling the world’s fleets to operate more safely and seamlessly, and provide our growing global society with greater access to the oceanic 70 percent of the planet. Seventeen days later, on October 15, in the waterways of Gluckstadt, Denmark, the company’s remotely-commanded, autonomous Nellie Bly crossed over the company’s ambitious goal line, claiming success and setting a world record while collecting significant data at sea.

The autonomy system

Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous command and control system enables active waypoint-based transit autonomy, as well as other automated behaviors to intelligently manage a voyage from start to finish. The system consumes real-time situational awareness data from multiple onboard sensors including, radar, AIS, depth transducer and fuses all into an active electronic nautical chart platform. An autonomy code stack manages the path planning and dynamic replanning for obstacle avoidance or other necessary course changes.  The feature-rich technology takes all aspects of a voyage into account. (Example: Active sea-keeping that regulates vessel motions in higher sea-states for the protection and comfort of cargo and passengers.) The SM300 provides a remote user experience that includes augmented charts, dynamic domain information, real-time heads up and surround video, direct control of vessel systems and gives the remote commanders the ability to switch between autonomous and direct remote control if needed.

The mission

Along the way, Nellie Bly, a Damen Stan Tug, made stops at more than a dozen ports, including in the maritime epicenter of Copenhagen, where Sea Machines hosted an event for customers, local leadership, and other special guests. During the remotely commanded Odyssey, the autonomous tug carried a crew of two professional seafarers, as well as various observing passengers on some legs of the voyage. The voyage brough all types of weather and unexpected challenges, which gave the Sea Machines team the chance to showcase its creativity, agility, and capability.

We are just getting started

And while this history-making journey is complete, the company is already looking ahead to what’s next.

“Echoing the words of our inspirational hero, Nellie Bly, ‘We believed we could and we did.’ Like Nellie, we were inspired and prepared, ready to make history, and we did.” said Sea Machines’ CEO Michael G. Johnson. “We thank everyone for following along the journey. Stay tuned for more boundary-pushing adventures to come.”

Read the press release announcing the completion of the mission.