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What type of robots do they use in the marine industry?

Written by

Neil Martin

Neil Martin

When asking what type of robots do they use in the marine industry, it is important to consider the applications. The most important ones are shipboard robots, unmanned underwater robots and autonomous surface vessels.

Shipboard robots, which for example can handle various desk duties, will be mostly articulated robots. It is these that have the capacity, strength and dexterity to handle tasks that would usually be carried out by human deck hands, working alongside existing machinery. 

Unmanned underwater robots are similar in many ways to airborne drones, in that they have the same operational systems, but different propulsion systems. These are commonly used in environments that are potentially harmful to humans, such as maintenance carried out in oil and gas fields. 

Autonomous surface vessels employ much the same technology as autonomous vehicles, such as radar, lidar and other vision systems which means they can navigate the seas without help from humans. The same debate that is being articulated about the safety of autonomous cars, is being heard about autonomous ships. The technology exists and fully automated ships are on the seas right now, but when we will as a society except that future cargo and passenger ships might be fully operated by robots and not humans.

And the perennial question is, who gets the blame when something goes wrong? If two autonomous ships collide, can you blame the robots, or the ultimate operators.

One thing is for sure thought, this will not stop the use of robotics and automation within the marine industry. 



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