Ahoy there! There be drones at sea

Liquid Robotics CEO Gary Gysin talks autonomy on the seven seas.

We’re slowly but surely moving towards an age where drones regularly fly overhead delivering parcels, inspecting buildings, and searching for criminals. But a similar wave of autonomous and remote-controlled drones are changing the tide of ocean-going operations.

Aquatic innovation

Though it often goes under the radar, there’s no shortage of new innovative efforts going on around the world’s oceans and seas. Norway is looking at intelligent fish farming, for example, and Blockchain technology is being looked at for use cases around managing shipping container logistics. One company is looking at becoming the “Uber of water taxis”. Nautilus Data Technologies is looking at creating floating data centres, while Microsoft’s Project Natick is looking at undersea data centres.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – aka the kind of drones you buy from DJI – are also finding uses on the waves. Much like on land, inspection is a big use case: the likes of BP are using UAVs to monitor offshore oilrigs instead of sending people up or down for manual inspection.

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Maersk has made a big song and dance about its digital transformation efforts, including partnerships with Microsoft and IBM. It has used drones for internal tank inspection. And, last year the company completed its first trial of shore-to-ship drone delivery 250 meters off the coast of Denmark, bringing a box of cookies to the crew on board. Eventually, the company plans to deliver spare parts, mail, food supplies, or medicine and save money on sending barges to the container ships.