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How do they use robots in the marine industry?

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

The marine industry has quietly embraced robotics and automation in a way that many others have failed, despite their best intentions.

I say quietly, because it's autonomous cars and robots replacing human workers at warehouses that have grabbed all the headlines. Perhaps it's also the fact that we humans don’t see robots and water as a happy mix. It’s illogical, but when people think robots, they see machines working on terra firma, not underneath the waves. 

Yet, the marine industry has gradually been gearing itself up for a future full of automation.

The key applications in this industry are shipboard robots, unmanned underwater robots and autonomous surface vessels.

To take the last one first, autonomous surface vessels have the same objectives as autonomous cars - that they can operate without the help of humans. Many ships already have their courses pre-programmed into their navigation systems and the crew are there to monitor and handle the tricky manoeuvres. Soo, ships will be completely autonomous and although they might have a skeleton crew to act as watcher keeps, they will in effect be completely self-contained in terms of operations. 

As for unmanned underwater robots, the best way to think of these are drones for beneath the waves. Okay, they don’t look like flying drones, but underneath the wave, they have the same characteristics as drones that fly above water.

Shipboard robots will, for example, perform duties whilst on a ship, and they might include loading/unloading, machine monitoring, or deck jobs.

Robots and automation are going to play a major role within the marine industry.

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