US-based Sea Machines Robotics has partnered with Canada-based workboats manufacturer Hike Metal to integrate its SM300 autonomous vessel control system onboard commercial vessels intended for search-and-rescue (SAR) missions.

This collaboration will demonstrate the capabilities of autonomous marine technology to boost the productivity and safety of SAR operations.

Installation of SM300 will enable Hike Metal’s vessels to gain autonomous SAR capability, collaborative vessel operations, as well as remote vessel and payload control. It will also allow data-driven waypoint following and mission planning, obstacle avoidance, in addition to minimally manned and unmanned configurations.

Manned and unmanned configuration enables operators to respond to rescue events 24/7, irrespective of the availability of the crews.

Sea Machines vice president of sales and marketing Don Black said: “Response times are critical in the success of search-and-rescue missions, due to the limited survival time of victims who fall overboard and inherent risks to rescuers.

“Our technologies installed aboard responding vessels reduce response times and increase productivity of on-water search operations, improving safety for all involved. We are thrilled to partner with Hike Metal on such an important prototype that will help to modernise marine responses, save lives and recover critical property faster.”

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Hike Metal senior project manager Roger Stanton said: “We have seen the need to increase response capabilities and also reduce the risk to first responders. We feel this technology and platform will be a valuable tool for all Coast Guard Societies around the world.

“We feel this technology and platform will be a valuable tool for all Coast Guard Societies.”

“We are very excited to be working with Sea Machines, a leader in autonomous technology for the marine environment.”

The Phase I demonstration of the technology will commence onboard a new-build, 27ft rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) on Lake Erie, near Hike Metal’s headquarters.

RHIB will feature twin 200-HP engines, a heated survivor seating area, a remote-controlled Flir camera system, extended-range fuel reserves and rescue cradles.