Yanmar has been working on automating docking and navigation Photo: Yanmar
Plans to commercialise Yanmar’s auto-navigation and automatic docking systems are well underway.
Robotics is becoming an established part of the maritime industry and Yanmar has been working on the challenging area of automated docking since the development in 2017 of the unmanned Robotic Boat.
“The most important factor with auto-docking is improving its level of precision in positioning the boat itself,” explained Yuichiro Dake, who is in charge of development at Yanmar. “The GNSS system we used for marine navigation was only accurate up to several metres. With the preliminary system, real time kinematic was set up port side to send correction signals for accurate positioning. We were able to limit precision errors to within several tens of centimetres,” he added.
Other problems remained, not least that boats have a tendency to drift. To mitigate this Yanmar used a twin-propeller, twin-rudder ship which allows for greater manoeuvrability. The addition of a thruster meant that the ship could move in all directions.
Another issue to overcome was the speed of the auto-docking process. Yanmar used an autopilot system widely used in the marine industry for automatic steering control slashing the time to enter port from four to two and a half minutes.
To improve safety and flexibility, 3D-LIDAR was installed to allow the vessel to detect its environment allowing it to correct its own position and the navigation system improved so that a safe route can be automatically calculated using just the departure and arrival waypoints.