Unmanned Systems Technology 021 | Robot Aviation FX450 l Imaging Sensors focus l UAVs Insight l Liquid-Piston X-Mini l Riptide l Eurosatory 2018 show report l Zipline l Electric Motors focus l ASTS show report

96 Show report | Autonomous Ship Technology Symposium Neptec showcased its Obscurant and Penetrating Autosynchronous Lidar (Opal) system, and its uses in long-range navigation and collision avoidance for autonomous marine vehicles from 3 m to 200 m in length that operate in foggy, smoky or dusty environments. “Most Lidars, especially in the automotive industries, are designed to be very short range: they do 50-100 m in clear conditions,” Mike Sekerka said. “Opal has a range of 500 m to 2 km, and uses an obscurant-penetrating Lidar technology we developed for applications like helicopters navigating in a dusty desert. It also works in rain, fog, snow and smoke.” The Lidar’s power and wavelength are key to its extended range and ability to penetrate obscurants. Most autonomous vehicle Lidars use 904 nm laser diodes, which do not provide enough energy per pulse to achieve the necessary range or penetration through real-world environmental conditions. Instead, the Opal uses 1550 nm optical fibre lasers, which enables the system to emit roughly 400 times the energy per pulse while remaining eye-safe. “In the marine application, a high- resolution Lidar with a practical range of greater than 500 m is important for obstacle detection and improved situational awareness to complement typical maritime radar – it can pick out small ships and objects that may be difficult to detect with radar,” Sekerka added. The system therefore yields information on the size and direction of detected targets, and can discern objects close together that would typically be misinterpreted as a single vessel. Raw data from the Lidar is processed in the company’s own software to segment two objects and track them individually. Another application for Lidar is in autonomous docking operations, which require centimetre-level resolution to determine the location of potential obstacles that could result in damage to the ship, the dock or people and cargo on the dock. The system is packaged in an IP67- rated casing which can withstand up to 5 g of shock, to survive the types of lengthy missions and harsh environments that autonomous ships might have to weather. Different models of the Opal, which is roughly the size of shoe box, are available with either a panoramic (360 º ) FoV or a forward-facing conical FoV. Accreditation and classification society DNV GL is conducting a two-month evaluation of the Lidar in Norway to assure its capabilities in marine operations. The tests include characterising its ability to detect target boats and ships of various sizes and materials to gauge its effectiveness against different types of marine objects in comparison to radar and camera systems. For a 1000 ft-long lake freighter, observing and avoiding hazards at various blind spots can be challenging for the bridge team, especially in congested inland waterways. To help handle such problems, Buffalo Automation has developed AutoMate, an AI autopilot system consisting of visual sensors, broadband radar and Lidar on separate masts at the ship’s bow and stern. “As standard, each mast has 22 identical infrared-capable cameras, arranged across 180 º at the same height but with different angles of tilt. Each camera is paired with another for stereoscopic depth perception,” explained Trevor McDonough. “The system fuses that information with Lidar, radar, AIS and weather information to provide the bridge team with comprehensive situational awareness and alerts regarding anything the system perceives as a potential hazard.” AutoMate also provides advanced route planning using data from AIS on other known vessels, to prevent ships being forced to wait idly outside ports for a berth. “By knowing in advance when their way might be blocked at canal locks or rivers, ships can save fuel by travelling at a more fuel-efficient pace or race ahead to avoid waiting for passage,” McDonough added. The team at Shone Automation discussed their capabilities for constructing architectures for manned- autonomous operations (fully automating the navigation and operation while still keeping a crew on board) with large freighter vessels. The company is trialling a container ship belonging to owner- operator CMA-CGM to collect data to inform future work. “To make a ship unmanned, you need to redesign the navigation, the cargo handling and the engine room,” said Ugo Vollmer. “To build an automatic engine room, it takes autonomous controls, full redundancy and an electric powertrain, which is not going to happen any time soon on existing fuel-powered ships.” August/September 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology The AutoMate AI autopilot, for avoiding hazards in, say, congested waterways