Smart Ships Coalition Fall 2021 Workshop

Smart Ships Coalition convened a virtual workshop on November 5, 2021. The agenda included updates from the Smart Ships Coalition and Marine Autonomy Research Site, presentations from regional partners, and an interactive roundtable discussion focused on working group formation and strategies for the Smart Ships Coalition.

Recordings of the workshop main session and working group breakout discussions can be viewed below.

Please contact admin@smartshipscoalition.org with any questions or feedback.

Workshop Main Session Recording

Workshop Breakout Steering Group Recording

Workshop Breakout Technology Group Recording

Marine Autonomy Research Site Featured on Autonomy Bytes Podcast

Great Lakes Research Center engineer and research vessel captain, Travis White, was recently interviewed about Michigan Tech’s ongoing work in the area of marine autonomy. Advances in Autonomous Surface Vessels and Vehicles (ASVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) continue, enabled in part through the cutting-edge research occurring at Michigan Technological University and the Marine Autonomy Research Site. Listen to Episode 4 of Autonomy Bytes podcast to learn more (link below).

(https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5idXp6c3Byb3V0LmNvbS8xNDM3MTI0LnJzcw)

Autonomy Bytes is dedicated to keeping the public up to date on the latest trends, technologies, and applications of autonomous systems. Each episode highlights interviews with leading experts to provide their insights and opinions in a format that is educational and entertaining. The show is sponsored by the Sinclair College National UAS Training and Certification Center.

Visits to Quebec’s Cities of Rimouski and Montreal

By Michael Beaulac and Jon Allan, Michigan Office of the Great Lakes

The Province of Quebec is the gateway to the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes system and connects to the Ontario and Basin State markets further west. Any ship doing Great Lakes business must pass through this province and nearly 60 million tons of cargo of all types is moved through Quebec ports. Accordingly, the maritime industry is not only well represented here in the Province but is also an important innovation focal point. Jon W. Allan and Michael Beaulac, the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes’ Director and Senior Project Administrator, respectively, and partner in the development of the Smart Ships Coalition, visited Rimouski, Quebec in late August to meet with representatives from Technopole Maritime, Innovation Maritime, Centre Interdisciplinaire de Développement en Cartographie des Océans (CIDCO) and the Université du Québec à Rimouski/Réseau Québec Maritime/Institut des Sciences de la Mer to learn more about their technical innovations in maritime research and to discuss the potential for sharing ideas and expertise across the Great Lakes St Lawrence basin.

Bunkering - Montreal

While all had something unique to offer, Innovation Maritime’s training simulator presents real potential for autonomous vehicle training in the Great Lakes, especially with the incorporation of rules of the road and operation in shipping channels and in congested areas. Conversely, the MARS test bed at Michigan Tech could prove a very interesting venue to test CIDCO’s fully autonomous HydroBall buoy for low-cost bathymetric data acquisition to assess its performance, dynamic calibration methods, processing techniques and deployment strategies. The option of future site visits and collaborations between Michigan Technological University and Rimouski’s Innovation Maritime and Université du Québec was also discussed. Quebec in general and Rimouski in particular showed their high degree of importance on technical and innovation in the St Lawrence Seaway and the Gulf of St Lawrence.  The trip highlighted that there is important innovation occurring across the system that could benefit from some further collaboration.

Mike Beaulac also a presenter and panelist at the “Currents 2018 Conference: Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Ships” held in Montreal on October 2nd where he spoke on the Smart Ships Coalition (SSC) and Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS). He also participated in the “Autonomous Ships: Possibilities for Cooperation Workshop” on the following day.

There were well over 100 participants at the conference from all aspects of the Canadian maritime industry, academia, NGOs and government – many familiar faces from previous Quebec meetings. Many great questions and follow-up from attendees on the SSC and MARS, including offline conference calls on the use of suitably equipped autonomous vehicles to monitor North American Right Whale movements in the busy Gulf of St. Lawrence shipping channel. Information was exchanged with, and the applications of risk-based operational guidelines and vessel/vehicle safety zones were also discussed with DNV GL – Maritime.

St. Lawrence Shoreline - Rimouski

The Workshop on day #2 was probably the real head turner as 20 or so participants from the Canada, the US and Norway engaged in a lively roundtable discussion of smart shipping and its’ implications for the Canadian maritime transportation industry. The discussion, which was facilitated by Transport Canada and National Research Council of Canada, included government, ship owners, port operators, academia and other representatives.

The participants agreed with the need to organize around the supercluster concept (https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/093.nsf/eng/00008.html), which is a Canadian government challenge that incentivizes innovation by fostering collaboration among the private sector, academic institutions and not-for-profits across key area in the country. Two superclusters that appear relevant to vessel autonomy appear to be supply chain-based SCALE.AI and the emerging technologies-based Ocean Supercluster. What appeared from this discussion is that the Federal government would continue to take on a leadership role as facilitators for industry to first consider the possible formation of a working group on Autonomous Ships to evaluate appropriate policies and develop a clear understanding of economic benefits. This internal assessment, of course, would be a required precursor to investing resources and becoming part of the Autonomous Ship Coalition.

 

 

Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS) Inaugural Experiment Answers Questions to Advance Autonomous Surface Vessel Technology

By Travis White, Great Lakes Research Center, Smart Ships Coalition

Last month, scientists and researchers from Michigan Technological University and University of Michigan took advantage of Lake Superior’s notorious fall weather patterns to conduct a multiday field experiment involving a motion capturing jet ski, large waves, and a seasoned US Coast Guard heavy weather surfboat operator. This field test was the final validation of the team’s preliminary work on a “Seaworthiness Through Intelligent Trajectory Control and High-Fidelity Environmental Sensing” project, an experiment designed to investigate one of the foremost limiting factors pertaining to autonomous surface vessel (ASV) use by the United States Navy, among others, being the inability of ASV’s to negotiate and survive large sea states and extreme weather conditions without operator intervention.

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The goal of this experiment was to capture vessel motion data and record an expert navigator’s prescribed maneuvering strategies used to maximize vessel stability in rough seas. Similarly, data was collected representing current autonomous maneuvering strategies for comparison. This research also explored advanced environmental sensors that could be used to develop a next generation autonomous control system capable of making navigation decisions that replicate those used by an experienced navigator.

The test vessel used for this experiment was a Yamaha WaveRunner SVHO, with a 140 inch (3.6 m) length overall, a 50 inch (1.3 m) beam, and a dry weight of 820 lbs (372 kg). This vessel was equipped with a sophisticated vessel motions package (recording six degrees of freedom accelerations), HD stereo vision, real time video transmission to a nearby shore station, an inertial navigation system (INS) using dual GPS for precise position measurements, over the air vessel data telemetry, and remote control capabilities. Operated in waves ranging from 2.5-4.5 feet (1.1-2.0 m) at a frequency of 4.7-5.7 seconds (dominant wave period), this vessel served as a 1/3 scale model for a much larger 11m rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) type vessel commonly used by the United States Navy in larger ocean waves. In addition to collecting an abundance of data directly from this instrumented vessel platform, additional metocean sensors were deployed in close proximity providing continuous wave field measurements. A quadcopter unmanned aerial system (UAS) tracked the test vessel for the duration of testing, and additional wave field measurements were obtained using wideband, programmable radar (operated over L, C, and S-bands), W-band scanning radar, and 2-D LIDAR.

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The test vehicle was piloted by a senior chief boatswain’s mate (BMCS) from the United States Coast Guard around a triangular test course at speeds varying from 5-10 kts (9-19 km/h), corresponding to vessel Froude numbers between 0.5 and 1.0, in a pattern that allowed cross-wave, up-wave, and down-wave runs to be observed. Baseline runs were done implementing straight line (non-optimized) trajectories about the course, followed immediately by an optimized wave dodging technique that is commonly employed by the United States Coast Guard when negotiating challenging sea conditions in order to maximize crew and vessel survival.

Preliminary observations based on the data collected from this experiment shed new light on vessel control strategies used by the United States Coast Guard to maximize vessel environmental survivability in high surf and extreme weather navigation scenarios. Wave dodging optimized contact between the vessel hull and water to maintain control and reduce slam. This was accomplished by allowing the vessel to roll in order to minimize vessel pitch when encountering a significant wave front. The result of this strategy reduced accelerations in the heave and surge directions and also prevents loss of propulsion and loss of control. These findings have implications for future vessel design and next generation autonomous control systems.

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Data collected from the radar and LIDAR sensors on shore demonstrated the ability to remotely gather wave data in real time, which might be useful for advanced sensor suites to guide autonomous surface vessels through large seas. Other sensing technologies including those onboard the instrumented vessel will be the topic of additional research building on the findings of this experiment in order to develop next generation autonomous controls for ASV’s.

This field experiment was the first test of its kind to be conducted within the waters of Michigan’s newly established Marine Autonomy Research Site, which was officially launched at a ceremony held in Houghton, Michigan on August 10, 2018. Testing was supported by the faculty and staff of the Great Lakes Research Center on Michigan Tech’s main campus in Houghton Michigan. Personnel from the United States Coast Guard Station Portage were instrumental in supporting this test by providing subject matter expertise as well as safety planning guidance. Total costs for this test effort were surprisingly low, demonstrating a cost effective model for future testing to be carried out in the Marine Autonomy Research Site to advance knowledge and application of autonomous marine systems.

The team is seeking additional funding to allow the researchers to continue their high impact work in this topic area and develop a next generation approach to autonomous vessel navigation in large sea states through intelligent trajectory control using advanced real time environmental sensing. Applications for related discoveries are broadly applicable to all autonomous surface vehicles operating around the globe today and have major relevance to defense, commercial, and scientific interests.

For more information on this research or to learn more about the Marine Autonomy Research Site, please contact the author, Travis White (tmwhite@mtu.edu).

A Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Program at Michigan Technological University Provides High Quality Students to Support Industries That in Turn, Support Navy Needs

By Guy Meadows, Great Lakes Research Center, Smart Ships Coalition

Development of new engineers and scientists in STEM fields is of critical long-term importance to the Navy (and Navy supported industries) in maintaining technological superiority. This technological superiority directly influences the capability and safety of the warfighter. Unfortunately, many STEM graduates are either unaware of Navy related careers, or are unprepared for problems facing the Navy STEM workforce. This Office of Naval Research (ONR) supported program at Michigan Tech aims to provide a steady flow of highly motivated and trained civilian engineers and scientists to the nation’s workforce of the future, capable of supporting naval related industries on day-one. Focus areas include underwater acoustics, noise control and vibration, autonomy and control, unmanned vehicle design, and sensors and sensing platforms. Each of these fields are critical to the Science &Technology strategic plan of the Navy and the Navy’s Force of the Future. This program at Michigan Tech is under the direction of Professor Andrew Barnard (arbarnar@mtu.edu).

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Eighteen, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) seniors have elected to enroll this semester in ME-EM 4850, a senior level/beginning graduate level course entitled Naval Systems and Platforms taught by Dr. Guy Meadows (gmeadows@mtu.edu).  The course provides background in applied ocean physics (light and acoustic propagation, underwater mapping, ocean currents and ocean wave motions) in addition to hands on experience aboard the university’s research vessel. Most recently, experience was gained with programming and launching Michigan Tech’s, “state-of-the-art,” fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), to map some historic wooden barges within the Keweenaw Waterway’s, Marine Autonomous Research Site (MARS).  The AUV, an Iver 3, provide ultra-high, resolution sonar bottom mapping capabilities. These excellent students will be available to join the nation’s workforce upon graduation this spring.

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Side Scan Sonar image of historic sunken wooden barges from the copper mining era.

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Full three-dimensional, sonar point cloud reconstruction of the bottom contours and barge targets.