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Jun 2, 2016 8:36 AM ET

Archived: Sea Machines Robotics: Autonomous Technology that will Usher in the Age of Self-Piloting Vessels

iCrowdNewswire - Jun 2, 2016

Sea Machines Robotics


Autonomous Technology that will Usher in the Age of Self-Piloting Vessels




Sea Machines develops state-of-the-art autonomous control & navigation systems that enable oceanic vessels to operate intelligently and collaboratively with minimal or no on-board crew.

From self-driving cars and trucks, to massive automated container wharfs, to robotic warehouses and a sky filled with drones, smart autonomous technologies are already changing the face of many land and air-based sectors.

With over 10 million vessels navigating ocean waters today, Sea Machines’ is set to bring the massive maritime and offshore industries into the twenty-first century.

The Sea Machines Autonomous Control Systems, called DP-NXT, delivers seamless transition between manned and unmanned operations and is designed to be retro-fit into traditionally operated vessels.

Read on to find out how Sea Machines is harnessing nexgen technology to steer the global shipping and offshore industries into the future.

Taken as a whole, global marine industries represent a $1 trillion operational economy. 90% of the goods that we use and consume today either traveled through or were harvested from the sea. But the industry is in desperate need of an upgrade. Contemporary marine and offshore operations are still very manual and rely on oversized and many times under-trained crews. As a result, the current processes are:

According to insurer Swiss Re, in 2015 marine accidents killed 2,487 people and caused $1.7 billion in insured losses.  Many of these incidents are caused by human operator error, from distraction or fatigue, to lack of training and seamanship skills.  And just as land-based heavy industries have been made safer through the use of robotics and automation, so can the marine domain.

This is also a massive sector that faces a wall of increasing labor costs, expanding tort and high liabilities, and a personnel shortage due to competition with higher paying and more advanced land-based firms.  Allianz’s annual 2016 Safety and Shipping Review estimates that by 2019 the maritime sector needs an additional 42,500 officers to crew the expanding fleets and predicts a shortfall of 15,000 personnel.

That’s where Sea Machines comes in: Providing marine industries with advanced automation and navigations systems that reduces the risks of operating at sea and eliminates the need for onboard crews. We’re significantly improving efficiency, quality, and safety, which will help the marine, maritime and offshore industries remain relevant and compete more effectively in the twenty-first century.

Let’s start with what Sea Machines is NOT doing. Our goal is not to render human involvement obsolete in the offshore world. As a team of seasoned mariners ourselves, we know that living, breathing people are irreplaceable when it comes to certain processes.

Instead, our unmanned systems allow operators to focus on other important work at hand, rather than directly navigating vessels. With a human supervisor always in the loop, Sea Machines provides greater efficiency and less operational risk, where both autonomous and manned platforms work in harmony with other vessels on the waterways.

And generally all tactics involve the use of human-occupied small craft that place the operators in close contact with oil — resulting in health and safety hazards from exposure to volatile organic carbons and other toxins, and physical hazards from excessive heat, cold, and general small boat operations.

Sea Machines prevents these risks, removing operators from harm’s way and relocating them to larger vessels while cleaning up spills, using our autonomous unmanned boats to venture into spill areas that are too dangerous for humans.

We’re not just improving safety and efficiency, we’re also cutting costs: Compared to traditional operations, our unmanned systems cut costs by more than 40%.

Within the marine industry, there are multiple sectors that need this technology.  The Korean Coast Guard recently calculated that 82% of accidents at sea are caused by human error.  Our systems directly address this problem.

Sea Machines is targeting workboats and tugboats as an entrypoint. Our DP-NXT system is offered as an upgrade which allows owners and operators the ability to perform more work using their vessels with less effort, risk, and cost.

A Sea Machines DP-NXT system comprises:

Communications & Data Transfer between vessel and operator station via broadband wireless or satellite.

Monitoring of onboard systems and vessel status. The system will send reports on ship status and health, send analytics you would need in real time (heading, pitch and roll, systems status, etc.)

Self-awareness of locality via sensors such as radar, AIS, and visual cameras. Like eyes and ears, this information feeds into the positioning and obstacle avoidance systems.

Vessel Actuation of onboard engines, thrust and steering systems as well as auxiliaries such as lights, pumps, and customer specific equipment such as survey poles, winches, davits, or manipulators

Dynamic Positioning Control to hold the vessel steady in the active environment of the seas at a specific location or while transiting.Continuous self-awareness and sensing of environmental forces leads to control adjustments to maintain programmed position.

Task Workflows. Whether a routine survey pattern or collaborative tandem motoring, operators can put a mission on top of it. For example, “Go here, run this survey or deploy this sensor, then follow this vessel and return to port”.

Sea Machines has pinpointed multiple global applications for our autonomous DP-NXT control systems, including:

Harbor Tugboats
This industry incurs a tremendous amount of fully crewed stand-by time and the operational communications between the interactive manned boats is highly manual which slows work, adds an unnecessary layer or risk, and reduces precision. Sea Machines autonomous systems will revolutionize this industry by removing the orchestra of manual operators and upgrading it to managed automated tasks.

Marine Construction
Coastal and offshore dredging and construction projects often require a thoughtfully planned logistical dance of moving boats, barges, floating cranes and materials around the worksite. But unlike land construction, the vessel operators cannot simply park a vehicle, leave unattended, and walk over to perform another duty. Giving an operator remote control or autonomous capability of his vessels will reduce man-loading, simplify operations, and remove the human conflict element when executing tight logistical plans.

With much of the world’s growing protein demand being satisfied by fish, marine aquaculture is moving from bays and fiords to the open ocean. Sea Machines autonomous systems will allow these mobile farms to operate efficiently and control all the parameters necessary to raise healthy fish on large scale.

Subsea Surveying
70% of the global surface has yet to be surveyed in detail and it’s all under the oceans. Multiple marine industries require subsea survey data, from oil & gas, to wind power, to ocean floor mining. Unmanned vessels can proceed in weather and sea conditions that is unpleasant to crew onboard small launches and can operate continuously for extended periods of time and overnight by not requiring crew breaks or changeovers. Sea Machines provides a much better way to operate vessels that conduct routine data gathering operations.

AeroStat & ROV Operations
Autonomous surface vessels are ideal in launching and recovering tethered underwater vehicles. In the case of an oil spill, unmanned aerostats are useful as low cost, consistent aerial surveillance adding to the situational awareness of the recovery operations.

Marine Mammal Monitoring
Marine Geophysical survey operators work under strict rules when it comes to using of seismic sources to protect marine life during acoustical survey operations. But their ability to spot animals is limited at night and in poor weather. Using an unmanned work vessel with passive acoustic monitoring techniques can monitor sound levels and identify mammal activity long before visual confirmation.

Marine Firefighting
A heat-shielded unmanned workboat with remote control and station keeping capabilities can be advantageous in getting a fire pump and water stream closer to dangerous hazmat or overhead fires, while providing a safe standoff distance for the operators aboard another vessel.

Subsea Interaction & Data Harvesting
The energy extraction and generation industries are installing evermore equipment on the seafloor and much of this hardware requires monitoring, data tapping, adjustment, or inspection from time to time.  This work is currently handled by manned vessels and companies are looking to perform these tasks autonomously to reduce cost and liabilities.

Sea Machines is setting our sights on completely revolutionizing the global marine operations space, and we’re building a lot of traction along the way. Here are a few key highlights from our progress so far:

Product Development
Our alpha phase software and prototype test vessel are complete. We are currently running trials of the software on our test vessel at the Sea Machines waterfront facility in Boston harbor. We estimate another 4-6 weeks of in-water trials of the alpha software.

Patents & IP
We have one US patent application pending and have a road map to file 3 additional patents within the year. Sea Machines has developed custom control algorithms in-house and we hold an exclusive license for the core autonomy control & communications systems programming.

Social Proof
We’re highly connected to all areas of the marine industries and on the whole they like what we are doing.  We also have been building valuable relationships with potential strategic partners such as Siemens and Kongsberg and we are currently working on a deal with an industry leader that includes close collaboration, joint development for the beta phase, and joint marketing to the industry.

Manufacturing & Distribution
We are currently developing in-house but with much of the hardware being COTS. When we move to commercialization, we will utilize a partner like Siemens to help us harden and kit the systems for production and sale.

What’s On the Horizon for Sea Machines?
Our priority now is to build on our momentum and demonstrate our proof-of-concept prototype to the industry and public, ramp up marketing efforts, establish strategic partnerships with a couple strong legacy companies, expand our development team, take the systems from Alpha to Beta phase, and protect additional valuable IP. We expect to begin accepting pre-orders for the DP-NXT systems in Fall 2016.

Find out how you can help Sea Machines achieve these goals by requesting access to the business plan side of our profile!

In April 2010, Michael Johnson was managing a technical marine project for BP on the US West Coast and watched the news in horror as the BP-operated Macondo Prospect spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Along with the severe environmental impact caused by the disaster, it was reported that the resulting injury and exposure claims from the people hired to clean up the oil added up to hundreds of millions of dollars. All the while, Michael couldn’t help but think that the outcome of this incident might have been drastically improved or even prevented altogether with improved technologies.

Fast forward to the morning of January 13th, 2012, where on the western coast of Italy, the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia motored into a rock. Her engine room began flooding and she lost power to her propulsion and electrical systems. TheConcordia then drifted back to Giglio Island, where she grounded in shallow waters with the majority of her starboard side under water.

Among the responders to this wreck was Michael Johnson, who played a key role in developing the technical solution for raising and salvaging the Concordia. Tremendous logistics were required to execute the project. Michael witnessed the daily lag and productivity loss caused by the interaction and coordination of hundreds of personnel on scores of vessels.  In many of these tasks, the presence of personnel actually hindered the efficacy of the operation and increased risks.

Combining this problem with that posed by the BP oil spill a few years earlier, Michael recognized an entry point for advanced automation and autonomous vessels in the commercial marine industries, and he set out on his voyage to start Sea Machines with the desire to create a solution that will solve such challenges.

Michael Gordon Johnson | Founder & President | Michael is a 20-year veteran of the marine and upstream offshore oil & gas industries with a focus on development projects. A degreed Marine Engineer, Michael has worked and managed large offshore and marine projects on 6 of the 7 continents and in his 30’s he was hired into the executive positions of VP of Projects and VP of Business at the Crowley Corporation, the largest private maritime company in the US. As an entrepreneur, Michael also founded three companies, two of which continue to operate and one retail enterprise was successfully divested.

Alexander Lorman | Founder & CTO | Alexander leads the technology development and deployment of the alpha systems and test vessel.  Alex has background of innovation and mechanics in the marine salvage industry and is also a “full stack” jack of many trades.

Jeff Bartkowski | Sales & Marketing Director | Jeff has 10 years’ experience in business development and sales within the Marine Technology Industry. While working for local Boston-area companies, Jeff’s main focus has been for advanced marine navigation and sonars with primary markets being Autonomous Vehicles, Commercial Vessels, and Military. His experience and a wide network both locally and globally of the contacts is perfect for propelling a maritime startup as well as identifying proper entry points within the marketplace.

Developer Team | Sea Machines has a highly capable team of developers that range in skills from expert PLC programmers to full stack and embedded systems developers that are experienced in the field of autonomous vehicles, controls, and navigation.

James Kinsey | James is a PhD with over 15 years’ experience in Autonomous Vehicles, and has proven to be an excellent resource in developing marine robotics and control systems.


David Kelley | David is the former CEO of Bluefin Robotics and very well entrenched in the marine robotics community. David offers excellent advisement in day-to-day operations as well as provides important connections throughout the marine industry.


Patrick Keenan | Pat is a retired US Navy Captain and former US Navy Supervisor of Salvage. He was also a MIT professor of Naval Architecture.



Opus Faveo Innovation Development | The incubation & acceleration team is advising Sea Machines in areas such as fund-raising, business structure, administration, and technology applications.

Contact Information:

Michael Gordon Johnson

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