DISCOVER Magazine #6

Collaboration – the basis for autonomy

Published in category: Innovation
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Damen supports Delft team in autonomous vessel debut

Between 18th and 24th June next year, teams from all over the world will gather to take part in a contest. This contest will see innovations pitched against each other in a race towards tomorrow’s maritime world. RoboBoat, is an initiative of RoboNation, a platform established to enable beginners and experts to interact in the promotion of robotics.

Each year, RoboNation offers a series of educational programmes and competitions, one of which is RoboBoat. The competitions span land, air and water-based autonomous vehicles. Taking place in South Daytona, Florida, 18-24th June, 2018, RoboBoat will see student-designed, autonomous boats navigate and race through an aquatic obstacle course. The aim of the boats is to mimic tasks that full-size vessels are being developed to carry out in the fields of coastal surveillance, port security and other maritime operations.

This year, a team of students from the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands is making its RoboBoat debut – with the support of Damen. The team – Trident Delft – consists of Timothy Puglia (Industrial Design), Bob van Rooij (Mechanical Engineering), Stefan Bonhof (Mechanical Engineering), Izaak Cornelis (Electrical Engineering), Albert Smit (Computer Science) and Remi Flinterman (Computer Science).

The team – Trident Delft – consists of Timothy Puglia (Industrial Engineering), Bob van Rooij (Mechanical Engineering), Stefan Bonhof (Mechanical Engineering), Izaak Cornelis (Electrical Engineering), Albert Smit (Computer Science) and Remi Flinterman (Computer Science).
Left to right (back row): Albert Smit (Computer Science),  Stefan Bonhof (Mechanical Engineering), Remi Flinterman (Computer Science), Timothy Puglia (Industrial Design Engineering). 
Left to right (front row): Izaak Cornelis (Electrical Engineering), Vittorio Garofano (TUDelft Researcher, coach of the Roboboat project competition), Bob van Rooij (Mechanical Engineering).

Timothy Puglia discussed Trident Delft’s entry with Damen:

We’re really looking forward to taking part in the competition. It’s the first time a team from Delft has participated, so we’re starting with a blank piece of paper. It’s going to be tough, as we are facing experienced competition.

Despite this, the Trident team are well-informed and already have a well-thought out plan.

“We’ve opted for a trimaran vessel – named the Trident. The vessel will feature two propellers that can be partly rotated to enable steering. We’ve selected a trimaran form because of the stability it offers. This is important for the multiple sensors mounted on the vessel. These communicate data to a computer mounted in the hull. The computer then uses this data to navigate the playing field and control the propulsion and steering mechanisms.”

a trimaran vessel – named the Trident. The vessel will feature two screws and two rudders for propulsion and steering respectively – allowing for differential propulsion and steering.

Damen first met up with the team at RDM – the centre of innovation in the Port of Rotterdam. RDM is home to a number of private sector, education and research initiatives. Here, all parties can come together to share knowledge and experience in an environment featuring cutting-edge facilities and equipment. The projects being undertaken on location represent nothing less than the future of the maritime industry. As a result of this cooperation between Damen and Trident, the team can draw upon Damen’s experiences within the field of autonomous vessels.

Siebe Rooijakkers, Senior Development Engineer in Damen’s Research & Development department, explains that the process represents a win-win situation: “When we heard what the team was undertaking, we saw a natural match with work we are doing. As R&D department we’re following all kind of disruptive technologies and see how Damen may benefit from these trends. One of the appealing topics is autonomous vessels. We have research findings that will be helpful to the team. Likewise, the valuable work they are doing on the RoboBoat project will be helpful to us. It’s a mutually beneficial cooperation.”

The project is just getting off the ground and there is much work still to be done. Tim continues,

We are still at the concept phase currently, but in all likelihood, Trident will be in the region of 1 metre by 70 centimetres and weigh around 22 kilograms. She will be able to sail at speeds of 1.5 metres per second.

Beginning on 18th June, the teams will familiarise themselves with the competition environment in Florida, carry out tests on their vessels and deliver presentations about their approach to the competition. Towards the end of the week, the challenges will commence.

Trident and her fellow competitors will have 20 minutes to complete a course, which includes mandatory and optional tests, as Tim describes: “These will include docking and undocking; the success of which will be monitored by an underwater sensor, avoidance of obstacles and speed trials. All of the features required to perform these tasks will be important characteristics of the vessels of the future, so the competition is really contributing to the development of autonomy.”

developing autonomous vessels

Siebe goes on to explain that Damen very often works with students on projects like this – after all, these are people at the forefront of new technological developments and who have the potential to bring a lot fresh, innovative thinking to the industry.

“At Damen we closely look at ways to align our business objectives with our HR and recruitment strategy. This often sees us cooperating with students – the people who will work in the industry in the future. This can be internships or graduation assignments, but we also supported WASUB, a student team that designs, builds and races a human-powered submarine.”

“We came into contact with Trident Delft after speaking to our Human Resources department. We applied recent and future developments as the basis for a new student team. Following this, we started talking to TU Delft and came into contact with the Minor Robotics. The students have formed the Trident Delft team as part of their Minor Robotics study.

“Of course, we are a long way from the moment autonomous shipping is common practice. But even on a short term there are a lot of advantages to projects like this. We mainly see this as an umbrella to develop solutions that make our products and services more effective and safe. For example sensor technology and data processing can already be used to help our clients improving their maintenance planning, or to optimise our supply chain and yard logistics. To achieve this, collaboration with universities like the TU Delft, knowledge institutes and suppliers is crucial. Only that way Damen can remain innovative and successful in the future.”

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