back to article The human-devoid AI-powered Saildrone Surveyor ship just made it to Hawaii from SF

A human-free autonomous boat known as the Saildrone Surveyor has successfully sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii to cross the Pacific Ocean while mapping the topography of the seabed, an achievement made less than a month after a similar IBM-powered boat failed. The Saildrone Surveyor, 22 metres long and and weighing 12,700 …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Pirate

    Autonomous sea taxis

    Take that Tesla et al.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Autonomous sea taxis

      There is a mechanism that sets a wingsail at the optimum angle to obtain the maximum drive from the wind. Combine that with the hydrofoil on a surfboard the lad in Puerto Rico is having fun with some mechanism (underwater whistle) to warn fish and cetaceans something is coming up fast (to be polite and also not to flip over them) and you may have some seriously efficient sea taxis.

      Stick the wingsail and mechanism on a ski lift and you have a very cheap power source!

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I think I would have a lot more confidence in an autonomous sea taxi than in an autonomous land taxi.

        If the sea is calm, you've got plenty of warning if something is coming and I'm sure the programming can handle that (aside from the fact that it would be using radar).

        And if the sea is not calm, I won't be on it, so . . .

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If the sea is calm, you've got plenty of warning

          You'll need to with sharks (with our without laser attachments).

          :)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well the birds sure appreciated the rest station on the sail's outrigger (rudder?)

    But they really should'a had at least a small pirate flag at the top. Or... did the other side of the sail have a painting discouraging boarders?

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Hmmm! Military and security, I wonder how well it can deal with a well armed Beluga whale?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Hmmm! Military and security, I wonder how well it can deal with a well armed Beluga whale?

      As there are no Beluga between San Francisco and Hawaii, that is a bit of a moot point.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge
        Joke

        Tut! They're stealth Beluga! The strategy is obviously working...

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Cartel's mule

    If they need funding, they could just do one or two autonomous extra trips from Colombia if you know what I mean...

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Cartel's mule

      I bet the cartels are already mulling that option. A small drone with some solar panels and batteries hooked up to a rudder and a satnav. Assuming it can charge and make more progress than the tides or current then it doesn't have to be fast, it just has to get to where it's going.

  5. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Joke

    IBM

    "A human-free autonomous boat known as the Saildrone Surveyor has successfully sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii to cross the Pacific Ocean while mapping the topography of the seabed, an achievement made less than a month after a similar IBM-powered boat failed."

    That failure wouldn't have anything to do with IBM's current email woes would it?

    https://www.theregister.com/2021/06/30/ibm_email_outage/

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: IBM

      Whereas the Saildrone Surveyor is "powered by wind and solar energy"...

      The Promare Mayflower is powered by "solar power", with copious amounts of hyperbole from IBM providing additional support and power:

      "Able to scan the horizon for possible hazards, make informed decisions and change its course based on a fusion of live data, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has more in common with a modern bank than its 17th century namesake," Andy Stanford-Clark, CTO of IBM UK & Ireland, said this week.

      "With its ability to keep running in the face of the most challenging conditions, this small ship is a microcosm for every aspiring 21st century business."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now Can We Find MH370?

    Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8874589/Fresh-hopes-MH370-six-years-plane-went-missing-sparked-fascinating-mysteries.html

    Where is it? Is this the best, cheapest way to find out?

    It's ONLY FIVE YEARS since it the plane disappeared!! I keep hearing on El Reg about "advanced technology"........and a Boeing 777 goes off the grid.....and five years later no one knows what happened......how can this be "advanced technology"??

    1. ravenviz
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Now Can We Find MH370?

      You should know better than to post links to The Daily Mail here!

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Now Can We Find MH370?

      Because although sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic that doesn’t actually make all advanced technologies magic

      1. ravenviz

        Re: Now Can We Find MH370?

        Only indistinguishable from it!

  7. cray74

    Urban Legend or Semantics?

    we have mapped the Moon more than our planet's deep oceans.

    I've heard variations of this claim frequently on the internet, but the Earth's ocean floors were thoroughly mapped by 1977. There are dozens of oceanographic institutes, militaries, and oil companies mapping and studying the seafloor for purposes ranging from primary science to profits. From the Antarctic ocean seafloor to the the Arctic Ocean seafloor, we've got the seafloors mapped in depth. (sorry)

    So, what definition is being used when it's claimed that we've mapped more of the moon's surface than Earth's seafloors?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Urban Legend or Semantics?

      I think it's the definition and visibility they're talking about. Vast swathes of the ocean floor are only mapped to very course resolution and most of it has never been seen. In that respect, we know way more about the surface of the Moon than the sea floor.

      1. Jon 37 Silver badge

        Re: Urban Legend or Semantics?

        To see one example of this: Open Google Maps, in satellite mode, go to Australia and zoom so Australia is roughly the size of your screen. Now look at the oceans to the south-west or south of Australia. You'll see a bunch of lines crossing them. Zoom in on the edge of one of those lines.

        Each line is where a ship has gone through the ocean with the right equipment to measure the depths in high resolution. So you'll see the high resolution data there. The rest of the ocean is "blurry", because there is only low-resolution satellite data available.

        They use sonar that scans a distance either side of the ship's course, hence the width of the lines.

        South west of Australia is a good place to look, because of the search for MH370. They did a lot of mapping looking for the remains of the aircraft on the seafloor, and it looks like that data ended up on Google. (Looking for an aircraft underwater is done by measuring the sea depth at high-resolution, then looking for an aircraft-shaped bump in that data. If something looks possible, they send down an ROV to take images of it). You can clearly see many of the rectangular search areas.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Urban Legend or Semantics?

          "Each line is where a ship has gone through the ocean with the right equipment to measure the depths in high resolution. So you'll see the high resolution data there. The rest of the ocean is "blurry", because there is only low-resolution satellite data available."

          Thanks! I'd never noticed that before. It makes it look a bit weird. The extra level of detail makes it look like a tracked vehicle, albeit an enormous one, has driven across an otherwise smooth seabed. I bet there are conspiracy theories already about the "roads" across the seabed and alien underwater mining operations :-)

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Urban Legend or Semantics?

          Or several approximate piece of aircraft badly bent, shaped bumps, in a proportionately small area.

      2. cray74

        Re: Urban Legend or Semantics?

        I think it's the definition and visibility they're talking about.

        And that's fine if that's the author's point. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is mapping the moon to 18-inches resolution such that that foot trails of astronauts are visible. LRO's fantastic work mildly complicates moon landing deniers' conspiracy theories.

        But then you get claims like "only 5% of the oceans have been mapped" that are taken for granted, even though every inch (or, well, tens of square kilometers) of the sea floor have been mapped since 1977.

        Hence my curiosity about the ambiguity.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Maybe the IBM one was having trouble with its email.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Maybe it was their new system to deliver e-mail. Robot boat mailman.

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    You wot?

    “We have solved the challenge of reliable long-range, large-payload remote maritime operations. Offshore survey can now be accomplished without a large ship and crew; this completely changes operational economics for our customers.”

    No, you've done one long trip, no doubt at the most favourable weather conditions you could plan for. "Solved" is when you can demonstrate multiple uneventful trips in all expected weather conditions. Other than that, good on them for a great achievement, but guys, don't oversell yourselves before you are certain.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: You wot?

      Quite! For a start 12 tonnes is not a large payload in marine terms, 1200 tonnes is not that large.

      This, is interesting: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/26319/usns-sea-hunter-drone-ship-has-sailed-autonomously-to-hawaii-and-back-amid-talk-of-new-roles

  10. DJV Silver badge

    human-devoid AI

    Saw that and at first thought, "Oh, another Zuckerborg(sic) article."

    1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: human-devoid AI

      He's a cunt.

      I know it's not related to anything else, but just had to say it. :-(

  11. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Joke

    Optional sensible title here

    Yes, yes, but will they secretly provide sharks with frikkin' lasers?

    That's what I want if I can't have the flying cars I was promised.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Optional sensible title here

      Fair enough!

      But can you go to work on a shark?

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Optional sensible title here

        Only if you take the laser off for the ride.

  12. potatohead

    'We have solved the challenge of reliable long-range, large-payload remote maritime operations'

    God you've got to love the optimism. It's made one journey and it's solved the challenge. I wonder if it encountered - failures, dodgy sensors, storms, pirates, etc etc

  13. normal1

    Automation is taking over

    Even tourists are being replaced by automation.

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If a similar boat is able to collect all the plastic garbage found during its travel, that would be very helpful to mankind.

  15. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Doesn't sound too difficult

    There are plenty of single-handed sailors who have sailed many thousands of miles over many years (and are doing so right now). The decisions a single-hander needs to make and the tasks they need to carry out over a long passage are not particularly complex or difficult. With the addition of hardware that can pull on ropes and reef sails etc., automation would seem to me to be a pretty trivial task. Most small yachts these days have enough solar and/or wind generators to supply all their electrical needs. For at least a third of the time the sailor is asleep and the yacht is thus sailing itself anyway, with only AIS and/or radar watching for conflicting traffic. In case of an alert, conflict resolution involves pretty simple algorithms.

    The only time a human is really needed is when entering or leaving a port or harbour - which I suspect the autonomous vessel would not do by itself. GPS solves the problem of navigation, which would otherwise be very difficult to automate. An unmanned vessel would not have to carry food or water, nor need energy for fridge, freezer or microwave oven, and so these could be replaced by the survey equipment.

    Perhaps a human would be needed to look at the weather forecasts and make routing decisions to be fed to the automated vessel via radio, but OTOH it would also not be that difficult to write a program to make course decisions based on the contents of GRIB files automatically downloaded each day together with actual measurements of wind & sea state - this would be no more difficult than a program that calculates the route in a car sat-nav system which gets real-time updates of traffic congestion that it takes into account.

    By far the biggest issue would be dealing with equipment failure. With no human crew, something as simple as a line coming out of a self-tailing electric winch or getting tangled in a cleat would be a show-stopper, so you'd have to redesign some basic equipment in a way that such things couldn't happen.

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