Originally from Kittery, Maine, Jocelyn Lorrey grew up in a maritime community and enjoying recreational activities on the water aboard her family’s boat. With her father working as a mechanical engineer for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Jocelyn landing in the marine industry surprised no one … except for her.
“When I thought of high-tech fields, the marine industry was not what initially came to mind,” she explained.
That all changed when she got a summer research opportunity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant and was introduced to the field of marine robotics. “I couldn’t believe people were getting paid to work on cutting edge technology and go on boat rides, let alone autonomous ones,” she said. She knew then that it was the field for her.
The MIT graduate joined Sea Machines in 2018, after earning her degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in robotics. Trained in behavior-based MOOS-IvP autonomy software, Jocelyn is now responsible for programming autonomy behaviors aboard Sea Machines’ fleet of test vessels. These behaviors include everything from directing the boats to avoid collisions safely to executing pattern autonomy and efficiently transiting from one point to another.
The job allows her to get out from behind her desk and take a ride aboard company boats to experience the real-world impact of her programming. “It’s an adventure and really cool to see how our technology fits in to the larger picture of solving customers’ challenges,” she explained.
Jocelyn thinks of coding as a logic puzzle: “Programs normally do exactly what you ask of them – whether that’s actually what you intended or not. Programming a boat adds another layer to this. Sometimes in testing, the boat will do a weird maneuver and we have to trace back whether that’s an autonomy making the decision or a control issue. It’s a fun challenge,” she said.
In addition to supporting Sea Machines’ development, Jocelyn also serves in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve as a Boatswain’s mate 3rd class. Working towards earning boat crew qualifications, she has a passion for helping people and learning more about the marine industry. She credits this experience with opening her eyes to how Sea Machines’ technology can meet the needs of today’s users.
“One of the most immediate needs I see for this type of technology is in the next phase, when we’ll use computer vision to detect, geo-locate and classify objects. This will provide users, as well as their autonomy system, with a much greater awareness of the surroundings,” she said.
Although autonomous boats may seem futuristic, Jocelyn reasoned: “When you look at how technology is already being used by crews today in things like sensors, chart plotting and alarms, it doesn’t seem like such a leap to build upon it. Each customer’s use case is unique but everyone benefits from increased situational awareness, the ability to react to dangers and the improved predictability of the work they do.”