VESSEL REVIEW | Proteus – Unmanned demonstrator boat for government and commercial applications

Photo: HII
Photo: HII

US defence and technology company Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) recently unveiled a new unmanned surface vessel (USV) that will be used as a testbed for autonomous navigation capabilities.

The 27-foot (8.2-metre) Proteus is equipped with commercial perception sensors, including GPS, AIS, a depth transducer, a Furuno radar, and a camera enabling a 360-degree field of view.

The USV is also fitted with an autonomous helm command and control system developed by Sea Machines Robotics. The system's capabilities include obstacle avoidance and adherence to to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) at both low and high speeds.

The system also makes it possible for a human operator to control the USV remotely from the relative safety of a shore station via a joystick on a wireless belt pack. This control pack also includes a throttle and an engine start and stop feature.

<em>Photo: HII</em>
Photo: HII

The operator's situational awareness is enhanced through a user interface that provides real-time data gathered by the vessel's array of onboard sensors. These sensors are also designed to aid in the avoidance of obstacles while making sure the USV sails along any pre-programmed routes.

Transfers of all voyage data from the vessel to the operator's remote command station are via 4G for shorter distances and satellite connection for distances of over five nautical miles. Also, because the Sea Machines autonomous vessel control system was developed using commercial off-the-shelf components, replacement components can be sourced and installed in less time.

A failsafe feature is designed to bring Proteus to a complete stop in the event of a communication loss between the USV and the remote command station. This mitigates the risk of the craft diverting from any safe sailing routes, which could otherwise result in damage to nearby vessels or structures.

Proteus' autonomous navigation capability was first demonstrated by HII and Sea Machines via a series of test sailings conducted off the coast of Panama City, Florida, in May of this year. Duane Fotheringham, president of the Unmanned Systems business group in HII's Technical Solutions division, said the vessel "performed exactly as expected" with the Sea Machines system having proven its ability to ensure safe autonomous sailings in open water.

Both HII and Sea Machines said that their continued work on Proteus will enable the continued development of autonomy capabilities and sensor fusion to support the evolving needs of both government and commercial customers in the United States.

Type of vessel:USV – Technology demonstrator
Owner:Huntington Ingalls Industries, USA
Builder:Huntington Ingalls Industries, USA
Length overall:27 feet (8.2 metres)
Other electronics:Sea Machines Robotics autonomous helm command and control system

Related Stories

No stories found.
Baird Maritime / Work Boat World