Autonomous Boats

The internal combustion engine is dying. Daimler is stopping development of new internal combustion engines for cars. Electric power is the future for cars and boats. VW plans to launch almost 70 new electric models in the next decade. Electric power is becoming cheaper than diesel power and requires less maintenance.

It’s almost like the shift from sail to steam,” said Joshua Berger, the maritime sector lead for Gov. Jay Inslee at the state’s Department of Commerce. Washington State Ferries are moving from diesel to electric power. “The entire traditional [maritime] industry is shifting around the globe.”

Portland is ideally positioned for developing Autonomous Boats and floating platforms. They can be used for river surveys, surveillance, data gathering and other missions.

Oregon has drone testing airports, InSitu, drone electronics like FLIR systems, Oregon Iron Works/Vigor, LandRover autonomous Lab, Daimler, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), the Ocean Observatory off the Oregon Coast and the Cyberinfrastructure. Oregon State University is responsible for all un-cabled instrument data on the Pacific coast. These organizations know how to fund research projects.

Autonomous Boats Will Be On the Market Sooner Than Self-Driving Cars. They’re easier to test and faster to become profitable.


Portland has the people. Hayden Island has the water. Cell towers on solar-powered drones? Maybe. That could provide persistent broadband connections, anywhere along the Columbia River, from Portland to Astoria.

Here are some companies developing autonomous boats

(1) ASV Global

(2) Oregon Iron Works has delivered multiple unmanned surface vessels and is often responsible for concept through the detail design.

Their Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) is a long endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft that supports various MCM payloads. Oregon Iron Works is developing autonomous seaplanes for EO/ISR and communications relay missions like the Sea Scout air vehicle.

(3) Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group

(4) The Solar Voyager is a low-slung single-hulled boat with a roof covered edge to edge in solar panels. The autonomous marine vessel is currently sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Autonomous. Solar-powered.

(5) Riverwatch

(6) Autonomous Marine Systems (Boston)

(7) Buffalo Automation (Buffalo)

(8) Sea Machines (Boston)

(9) Sub-Sea Tech (France)

(9) Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel (WAM-V),

(10) Automation Packages

(11) Bluebird Electric (UK)

(12) Ocean Alpha

(13) Saildrone (Alameda)

(14) Underwater Robots at Oregon State University
OSU manages a fleet of Slocum gliders manufactured by Teledyne Webb Research. Liquid Robotics Wave Gliders harvest energy from ocean waves for propulsion.

Autonomous Ocean Robots and Marine Technology News have the latest.

The Solar World Challenge is a solar electric car race that starts in Darwin in North Australia and finishes in Adelaide in South Australia – 3000kms (1,864 miles). It takes about 5 days.

The Monaco Yacht Club started an electric boat race and has an annual competition. There are 200 participants and all are invited to discuss their knowledge and projects on Open Source at the end of each day.

An Oregon-based Solar World Boat Challenge might start from Astoria and finish at the Portland Seawall (100 miles) – or perhaps 124 miles (200K) total. It could involve a slalom course and 2 heats in 2-3 days. A national event. Global, really.

Monaco Solar & Electric Boat Challenge 2017

ROCFP Sneek Solar Team

Dutch Solar Challenge 2016 Netherland

Dreamteam Solar Boat Team

Solar Electric Pontoon Boat Walkthrough

Electric Ferry

SOLAR SPLASH is the World Championship of intercollegiate Solar/Electric boating. Technical Inspections are done on the first day, and the remainder of the time is occupied by five on-the-water competitive events.