RHMarine weighs smarter, safer superyachts

SCHIEDAM _ To Marcel Vermeulen, autonomous sailing _ i.e. with minimal or no crew _ is a dot on the horizon, approaching fast despite myriad safety, security, navigational and legal barriers.

“About 10 years ago we drafted a strategic technology agenda,” says Vermeulen, Portfolio Manager Integrated Bridge at RH Marine, a Dutch integrator of electrical and automation systems in yacht building and other sectors. That agenda’s goals include developing autonomous sailing through artificial intelligence. “Today we take steps making that goal more concrete,” Vermeulen tells this newsletter.

RH Marine has begun a 3-year research project into safe autonomous sailing, a technology commonly associated with tankers and cargo vessels but one that will benefit superyachts, too.

“At RHMarine we develop ship motion control systems,” says Vermeulen. “Autopilots, dynamic positioning systems and so on. It is important to understand autonomous sailing does not necessarily equal unmanned sailing. It also means building up artificial intelligence on an existing superyacht bridge. To make the vessel smarter by avoiding human errors. And we can do so without changing the bridge architecture. If a hazard looms, autonomous collision-avoidance technology can help keep a yacht safe.”

The research project is part of a larger EU-funded ‘Safer ‘Autonomous Systems’ study run from Belgium’s Leuven University. RH Marine and MARIN, the Dutch maritime research institute, focus on the safety of unmanned, self-propelled vessels. RHMarine develops complex systems for naval, dredging, offshore and super yacht sectors.

The research targets the safety of autonomous systems. To that end, RHMarine will develop 3 different algorithms to optimize a route enabling a vessel to sail efficiently and cheaply, to develop “situational awareness” and recognize hazards and to avoid those hazards.

RHMarine was approached for the international research project because of its depth of expertise. “We are already developing complex systems for naval, dredging, offshore and the super yacht sectors,” says Vermeulen. “Our future goal is to enable our customer’s vessels to sail autonomously. Through the SAS research, we can make significant strides in that ambition.”