Photo: Image courtesy Armach

Milestone for Armach’s in-water hull service robot

U.S.-based ship husbandry firm Armach Robotics has achieved a critical milestone during a demonstration of the in-water hull service robot (HSR).

 Armach, a spin-off company of marine software firm Greensea Systems launched in March this year, is currently in the ‘build it prove it phase’ that will allow it to build, develop and iterate the robotics platforms and prove that the technology and model work in the real world. 

The company’s autonomous cleaning solution is said to be capable of 100% coverage of the hull surface excluding niche areas. The service provider uses Greensea’s navigation systems to ensure that the robot cleans the hull in the quickest and most efficient way possible.

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During the trial, Armach monitored and controlled its hull service robot in the water in Norfolk, VA by staff at Armach’s command center in Plymouth, MA, using a 4G modem providing over-the-air connectivity. 

Once the comms connection was made between Norfolk and Plymouth, the vehicle was able to complete its pre-dive checks on the pier. This involved full system checks with commands being sent from Armach’s home office, nearly 600 miles away. 

“After verifying the capability to successfully OTH control the vehicle from the safety of the pier, confidence levels were high enough to proceed to additional in-water testing,” Cody Peyres, Armach’s Operations Manager said.

“The vehicle was launched into the harbor and released. The Plymouth-based operator was able to fly the vehicle from the launch point at the pier, and make a controlled approach to the side of the ship. Once there, it was able to attach itself successfully, and travel along the ship’s side performing a short test cleaning protocol.“

“We also knew that Greensea’s Safe C2, a distance operation solution also part of the OPENSEA suite, had already proved that it was operationally viable for conducting advanced intervention tasks with ROVs. Bringing the two together in our vehicle, which has different demands from a more traditional ROV, represented an important milestone,” Peyres added.

It was also demonstrated how the HSR can recognize objects in its planned path of transit, autonomously navigate around these, and return to its originally planned path of operation – also referred to as an obstacle detection and avoidance manoeuvre. 

“Flying the vehicle from Plymouth and landing on the BB64 was a euphoric experience, as we reached one more milestone on our technology roadmap,” John Dunn, VP Operations at Armach and pilot for this first OTH flight adds.

“The technology to do this isn’t new or even new to the market, however, getting it incorporated onto our platform, while our collective teams continue to develop and iterate our technical offering, was still a huge lift,” he pointed out.

The company aims to have small footprint robotics systems that are able to launch, clean and recover automatically all while supervised remotely from Armach’s Plymouth, Massachusetts, headquarters. These units, in addition to installation in port infrastructure, can be resident on ships of all classes, conducting hull cleaning maintenance at the convenience of the vessel’s schedule.

Armach aims for its systems to have a previously unprecedented level of ‘Hull Intelligence’, effectively creating a hull condition survey every time they clean a hull. In this way, owners would be able to understand their hull condition in ‘real time’ and make decisions that will save time and money.