Turn-Key Autonomous Vessels Now in Regular Production

Metal Shark and Sea Machines Launch New Sharktech Autonomous Vessel from Metal Shark Boats on Vimeo.

Published Sep 24, 2019 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S.-based shipbuilder Metal Shark and Sea Machines, a Boston-based leading developer of autonomous marine technology, have partnered on the development of a turn-key, near immediate delivery production model for autonomous vessels.

The new 29-foot Sharktech 29 Defiant welded aluminum monohull pilothouse vessel is available under Metal Shark's stock boat program and is targeted at both government and commercial operators. It features OEM-integrated Sea Machines technology offering a full range of advanced capabilities including active control and collision avoidance. The system allows for either traditionally manned, reduced-crew or unmanned autonomous operations to deliver “human-in-the-loop” navigation capabilities during both line-of-sight and over-the-horizon operations.

Sea Machines’ founder and CEO Michael G. Johnson says the vessel will allow operators to gain capabilities such as force multiplication, collaborative vessel operations and remote payload control.

Through Sea Machines’ SM300 autonomous control and monitoring system, the Sharktech 29 Defiant and all onboard systems are commanded via a direct wireless PC-based user interface. An industrialized remote control with joystick provides manual control for situations when autonomy mode is not required, and an available belt-pack remote allows for vessel, systems and payload control within a one to two kilometer range.

The system frees the operator from the helm to allow manned, technology-assisted control from anywhere onboard the vessel. Alternately, when unmanned operations are required, the vessel and its onboard systems may be monitored and controlled via network connections from a shoreside station or second vessel. Local situational awareness is provided to the remote operator via streaming video, ENC localization, radar, AIS and live environmental and deck machinery condition feeds. The vessel may also be operated autonomously in traditional (manned) mode.

Advanced mission planning and situational awareness capabilities round out the autonomous package. Routine software updates allow for system enhancements as additional refinements are made. 

Nearly 400 Metal Shark 29 Defiant vessels are in service worldwide, so the advanced Sea Machines technology suite has been integrated into a highly versatile, military-proven hull form, says Metal Shark. Powered by twin outboard engines, the vessel achieves top speeds in excess of 45 knots. Like all Metal Shark offerings, the Sharktech 29 Defiant may be customized to suit unique mission requirements. However, to reduce lead times, a standardized configuration has been developed for the stock boats program.