Netherlands based towage operator KOTUG said it is exploring new ways to use aerial drone technology in its tug operations, as part of a plan to achieve safer and more efficient working conditions.
While interest in drone technology has been gaining momentum in the maritime sector, stakeholders continue to explore new applications, from aerial deliveries to surveying and inspection.
KOTUG has applied for a patent for its new plan, which involves using a drone to connect the towline to an assisted vessel. According to KOTUG, this will improve the safety margin of tug operations drastically as the need to maneuver in the “danger zone” is avoided.
Conventionally, a tugboat must be positioned closely in front of the assisted vessel to grab the heaving line by hand, putting the tug and crew in a dangerous position close to or even under the flaring bow of a vessel. Even a minor flaw in the operation can result in major injuries of the deck crew and/or damage to the tug and the assisted vessel.
With KOTUG’s drone solution, the messenger line would be delivered to a predetermined location with object recognition software. Instead of picking up the heaving line of the assisted ship, the messenger line of the tug will be brought to the assisted ship in a more controlled manner. This will allow the tug to safely sail beside the assisted ship instead of in front of the assisted ship.
Up next: KOTUG has scheduled a series of tests to trial full operational use of this technology and develop standard operating procedures in conjunction with relevant authorities and stakeholders.