Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

86 UVD | Roboat’s 3DFEA USV Intelligence Data from all these sensors runs to the main computer, an NVidia Jetson AGX Orin, which comes with a 2.2 GHz CPU, 64 GB of eMMC memory, and H.265 video encoding and decoding. “We connect that computer directly to the programmable logic controller (PLC) subsystem on the boat, which is installed by a company called Royal Van der Leun, and that’s what would traditionally be the point of coordination between a boat’s thrusters and a human pilot’s manual controls, so a very tried-and-tested technology that we can rely on to safely transmit signals for operating the boat autonomously,” Jordan says. The PLC on the ferry can still be used this way. Regulations require that a human captain still be present on the ferry to take over via a manual control console if necessary, so both this operator (who will monitor the health and status of the ferry’s subsystems) and their interface will be located onboard in the cabin. As communication with the PLC relies on a Modbus protocol, Modbus is used for signals throughout the ferry’s network, via an Ethernet bus that serves as the physical transport layer. Connectivity In addition to the vessel captain on the boat, who will monitor Tony’s vitals via their Ethernet-connected display, a 4G/4G+ dual SIM cellular connection maintains a redundant live feed indicating these details to Roboat and the fleet operator, for remote monitoring and over-the-air firmware updates. “It also allows corrections for the RTK-GNSS to maintain centimetric navigation precision,” Jordan says. “We’re capable of using 5G, but for the time being our industry-spec 4G+ gives us a satisfactory uplink bandwidth for detailed live analysis of the ferry’s Lidar and video streams, if needed.” Looking ahead As of writing, VNF has already requested a second ferry for operations near the first one during the Olympics, starting in July 2024. As well as ensuring higher throughput of passengers, this will demonstrate the capabilities of autonomous mobility, clean energy and additive manufacturing to wider audiences (in Paris and watching from afar), with the consortium targeting future means of optimising the costeffectiveness of the autonomous ferry operation. It is noted that regulators removing the need for an onboard captain, particularly for short journeys with minimal need for human oversight, would make a considerable difference in this regard. For now, such is Roboat’s satisfaction with the maturity of its core technological offering that Klein Schiphorst and Jordan aim to offer sensor fusion kits in the near future, which can be integrated onto virtually any boat to turn it into a USV, so long as power and an interface for the thrust and steering systems are provided. “We’re very interested in additively manufacturing more boats, up to 20 m in length,” van den Heuvel says. “Printing this ferry takes 10 days now, but we’ve learned enough now that the process can be optimised and boats printed even faster, compared with taking weeks or months sometimes via conventional boat building.” April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Autonomous ferry ‘Tony’ Monohull Fibreglass composite structure Battery-electric Length: 9 m Beam: 3.9 m Draft: 1.7 m Height above water: 3.1 m Displacement: 9.5 tonnes Maximum speed: 12 kph Passenger capacity: 35 Some key suppliers: Hull design & assembly: Holland Shipyards Group Additive manufacturing: 10XL Thrusters: Kräutler Elektromaschinen GmbH Battery: Top Systems Main computer: NVidia PLC: WAGO Lidars: Ouster GNSS-IMUs: Swift Navigation DVL: Nortek Cameras: Teledyne Flir Key specifications A second ferry has already been requested of the consortium, which will also operate on the River Seine near the first one, starting in July 2024 (Image courtesy of Roboat)