Autonomous Docking of Offshore Access Systems
Cameras and sensors mounted on various places at an offshore gangway serve as the ‘eyes’ of the gangway for defining its precise docking location. Aiming at minimising possible risks that can result from manual operation of offshore access systems, Bosch Rexroth is at the forefront of developing new features for autonomous offshore operations. In close cooperation with specialists at Bosch Corporate Research center in Renningen, Germany, various (add-on) systems, calculation and processing methods and other additional features are being developed and tested at sea.
“These features are aiming at widening the window of operation, that is limited by challenging weather conditions offshore”, says Maarten Kuijpers, Head of the Project Engineering Department at Bosch Rexroth. “These innovative features also support future motion compensation demands like docking onto floating wind turbines, or ship-to-ship transfer of goods and people.” Applying radar, LIDAR, cameras and motion reference units for retrieving data, connected to smart software systems that are using smart sensor fusing algorithms and machine learning, offshore access systems will see and learn their relative position to the docking area. Feeding this input into a gangway’s control system will enable future offshore access systems to autonomously find, approach and dock in exactly the right spot, under the harshest of offshore circumstances.
By collaborating with the German departments, Bosch Rexroth is able to make use of the Group’s latest technological developments in sensors and software. For testing however the company reached out to other parties. “Innovations like these are best tested in real life”, Mr Kuijpers continues. “For this reason we are very lucky that offshore operator Vroon has offered us this opportunity. Their VOS Start has a Barge Master next-generation gangway on board, which was for this occasion equipped with the required cameras and sensors.”