It is already a few months into 2023, and the maritime industry has experienced many developments despite challenges, while more are expected for the remaining months of the year.
Among these innovations is Underwater Robotics, which can be used to explore areas of the ocean that are too dangerous and unsafe for humans.
What is robotics?
Robotics combines engineering and technology to create machines that can assist humans in various ways. These machines can also be used to handle tasks too dangerous or tedious for humans.
It is regarded as a branch of engineering that involves planning, designing, manufacturing, and managing robots.
Applications and impacts of robotics on the maritime industry
To make tasks faster and improve safety in the industry, maritime companies, agencies, and organizations have been using robots. Below are some of its applications and observed impacts.
Inspection of vessels and undersea security
The size of cargo and ship vessels makes it almost impossible to inspect them thoroughly. When not well inspected, vessels may transfer invasive species and can also be used for smuggling contraband.
Prior to the usage of robots, divers are deployed for the inspection and detection of contraband in the water. Meanwhile, this puts the divers in harm’s way, and there is a higher chance they unintentionally omit some areas during the inspection.
The use of robots makes inspection faster and more detailed.
Also, attacks are probable underwater. This is a threat many nations try as much as possible to counter.
For instance, in 2022, the French government moved to obtain its first deep-sea drone and robot to counter hybrids threats, including attacks on telecommunications infrastructure in its waters.
Ships are expected to be repaired when needed and properly maintained to satisfy all requirements by the law governing their area of operation.
Ship inspection surveys are conducted by specialized professionals. The complexity of the machines and systems requires spending a lot of time to ensure everything is intact.
Ship size also significantly affects the cost of such a survey. A large ship, for instance, will require scaffolding or hydraulic platforms to access certain areas of the vessel. This can be both expensive and risky.
Many surveyors are now using Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS). These robotic systems are designed to perform maintenance, inspection, and repair activities even while a ship is underway.
CORDIS EU Research results observed that the use of RAS helps to gather more information about the state of a vessel than the use of traditional surveys. Robots are also faster and safer. Robotic drones can also be easily deployed and operated by a single person, thus, reducing operation costs and the need to invest in safety equipment.
Hull cleaning is important to keep a vessel operating efficiently. Hulls are prone to develop a biofilm that, if not cleaned, will become lumpy over time.
They can collect seaweed and other dirt from the sea. This can increase the overall weight moved by the ship and could be dangerous for the vessel.
Aside from that, the boat will need to burn more fuel to move the total weight effectively.
Cleaning the hull will reduce fuel consumption and reduce the turning gear vibration. It will also prevent the engine from overheating.
Robots clean hulls more efficiently than any human. They can also be easily adjusted with controls to choose a preferred brush depending on the need.
Regular hull cleaning can save up to 5 percent in fuel efficiency, and this could amount to about $15 billion yearly in fuel costs for the maritime industry.
Anti-piracy and passengers safety
Traveling by sea is one of the safest modes of transportation but not absolutely safe. Travelers may experience sea pirates capable of dispossessing them of their valuables, kidnapping, or killing them.
Coastguards usually try their best to ensure passengers’ safety on the water, but sea pirates tend to find means of outsmarting the guards by studying their modus operandi.
Robots are being tested and considered to replace humans for faster and more discreet ship inspection.
There are robots designed with magnetic wheels that allow them to crawl to the side of a ship and implant themselves. These robots have cameras that allow operators to get a live display of what is happening on a ship, even at night.
The US Navy has also tested different robots capable of autonomously patrolling the ocean.
Humanoid robots are also being engaged on ships to detect and extinguish fires. They are designed to work with human firefighters to search for survivors and perform other tasks like turning valves.
These robots feature advanced sensor technology for advanced navigation if the ship is unstable. They can also withstand temperatures as high as 500 degrees Celsius.