Autonomous Docking: An Elegant Solution to a Complex Problem

MAID Autonomous Docking technology design

Published Jan 31, 2022 1:19 PM by MAID Systems

As disruptive as the smartphone was fifteen years ago, smart ship technologies will revolutionize ship design and marine vessel operations. Autonomous docking and positioning for ships is the maritime industry's future, and maritime companies are constantly reviewing technology innovations and new initiatives to drive sustainability and profitability by optimizing vessel efficiency and performance of their marine fleets. Autonomous technologies are poised to transform the industry. Some of the technologies include the Internet of Things (IoT) and sophisticated sensors, data collection and analytics, advanced robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) as well as virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). 

An Australian company, MAID (Marine Autonomous Intelligent Docking), has devoted more than a decade to developing and patenting intellectual property ("MAID IP") on systems and methods that enable fully autonomous docking and positioning of marine vessels ("MAID Technology"). 

The patented MAID Technology has multiple applications for the Commercial, Offshore Oil & Gas, Passenger, Defence and Public Security marine vessel sectors. It enables fully autonomous docking and positioning operations through the use of sensors and closed loop control of the propulsion systems. 

The MAID IP protects the uniquely innovative design of the MAID Technology. The technology can identify where the vessel is within its surroundings while also recognizing the desired docking location. MAID's technology autonomously validates and pre-determines the docking location is big enough to accommodate the vessel's dimensions. It can also be used for maintaining a safe vessel-to-vessel position, regardless of whether it is static or moving.

MAID Technology incorporates dynamic obstacle handling and object recognition to track other vessels and objects in the harbor. It can autonomously stop or reroute the path as required to maintain a collision-free approach to the docking position, controlling the vessel drive systems to maneuver the vessel at a controlled velocity. The vessel's speed is reduced on approach to the dock, and it stops and maintains the vessel at a default distance from the dock - all without human intervention. 




One of the most innovative breakthroughs of the MAID Technology is its use of a single unique method to overcome all external variables that affect the vessel's motion such as wind and water currents, without the need to measure these variables. This minimizes the number of components required and subsequent installed system cost, while maximizing reliability, precision, and safety. 

MAID's patented autonomous vessel control technology enhances operational efficiency by decreasing the time to dock a vessel, reducing fuel consumption. The technology also results in lower labor costs, with less crew required to dock a vessel.

The MAID Technology and MAID IP can also be applied to enable 360° situational awareness providing exact, reliable real-time data for detecting objects, vessels, and external structures such as docks and offshore infrastructure, as well as the position of the vessel, its velocity, and attitudinal information, relative to its surroundings.

The autonomous control resulting from MAID's technology has the potential to prevent accidents and injuries caused by human error and the subsequent cost of repairs, damages, and other associated liabilities. It has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of vessels being out of service due to accidents or mechanical maintenance. Autonomous vessel control decreases wear and tear on vessel propulsion system components resulting in reduced operating costs, increased efficiency, increased reliability, and reduced maintenance costs.

As maritime companies continue to research and address the challenge of autonomous shipping, MAID has quietly developed the technology and patented the IP for fully autonomous docking and positioning, which is set to revolutionize autonomous shipping and change maritime vessel operations forever.


This post is sponsored by MAID Systems. For more information about the MAID Technology and MAID IP, please visit https://maidsystems.com/ 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.