Published: 2018-08-28

An autonomous sounding boat in Antwerp

Technology An autonomous sounding boat in Antwerp

Photo: Port of Antwerp

The Port of Antwerp is currently testing Echodrone for carrying out unmanned measurements of water depths and inspecting underwater infrastructure, like dock beds.

The autonomous sounding boat has been developed by dotOcean, a maritime technology company based in Brugge. Apart from being fully autonomous, Echodrone is smaller than its manned counterpart Echo which makes it possible to operate in heavy traffic.

"This technology is based on assembling detailed information in the cloud. Data from all sorts of devices throughout the port is made available over the internet and then selectively compiled and translated into useful information by algorithms in the cloud. The Echodrone is designed to navigate fully independently using this verified data, unlike the previous generation of automatic vessels that had to rely on their own onboard sensors. This makes the Echodrone one of the first of a completely new generation of robots," Koen Geirnaert, Co-founder, dotOcean, explained.

Wim Defevere, Senior Technical Manager Nautical Access, the Antwerp Port Authority (APA), added, "The Echodrone is currently undergoing extensive trials. Once these have been completed it will be based in the Deurganck dock where it will be fully operational alongside the Echo to measure the water depth of the available berths at the busiest of the tidal quays for handling containers."

"With the help of the Echodrone it will be possible in future to carry out other types of measurements, such as environmental surveys, inspecting quay walls and so on. This technology is a real breakthrough for us in our quest for smart solutions for the port of the future. It is also a good example of our role as an initiator and facilitator of innovative initiatives," Piet Opstaele, Innovation Enablement Manager, APA, said.

Opstaele summed up, "As a world-class player we as a port aim to be a leader in developing innovative concepts. In this way we are laying the foundations for the 'smart port' of the future in which digital technologies are used to make the land-based and water-based operations more flexible, responsive and efficient."


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