Human technology

MTU to Host Smart Ship Workshop at World’s First Freshwater Testbed

The Smart Ships Coalition will meet at the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) at Michigan Technological University for a workshop September 15-16. The Center, located on the campus waterfront, is home to the Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS), the world’s first such freshwater test bed.

Technology is creating new ways to navigate the waterways, but politics hasn’t kept pace. Experts from across the Great Lakes – and around the world – are working together to tackle the uncharted territory of autonomous and intelligent maritime systems.

Captain and research engineer Travis White is at the helm of Michigan Tech’s research vessels as well as the Smart Ships Coalition workshop meeting here in September.

GLRC Research Engineer Travis White, who administers and coordinates the coalition’s efforts, said 50 to 75 Smart Ships Coalition participants plan to attend the workshop. The event is an ideal opportunity to learn more about the coalition and the test site, or testbed, which is available to businesses, research institutes, government agencies and other interested individuals. by surface and underground autonomous vehicles and related technologies. And, thanks to the sponsorship of Michigan’s
Great Lakes Office and Great Lakes Protection Fundattendance is free.

Register for the Smart Ships Workshop

Boats and docks on the Keweenaw Waterway at Michigan Tech's Great Lake Research Center

The September 15-16 workshop is for anyone interested in maritime mobility related to autonomy, artificial intelligence, computer science, cybersystems, ethics, machine learning, politics, robotics, workforce development or related fields.

Registration for the workshop is open until Wednesday, August 31.

Register for the workshop.

“The roundtables and working group discussions are an important part of the workshop,” said White. “We want all participants to be actively involved in dealing with topics that are important to their interests and their organisations.”

Automated, autonomous ships and ship technology are not on the horizon – they are here. And they have a direct effect on global supply chain issues and the development of the new energy economy. Thinking about how smart technologies affect design, operations, safety, security, training and the workforce includes developing a regulatory framework.

“Autonomy may be a way to move goods safely and more efficiently,” White said. “Everything we do here is nationally applicable. We can move from the pilot phase to scale-up. But technology goes beyond regulation. We can, as a coalition, tackle this problem, helping industry work with government. During the workshop, coalition members will break into working groups to identify priority tasks and next steps to address. »

Launching Ships of Opportunity from MTU Docks

The GLRC’s location on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is ideal for a testbed due to its access to diverse marine environments. The Keweenaw Waterway offers urban and industrial environments with a variety of depths in its mix of man-made straits and natural lakes, bays and rivers. Lake Superior features deep marine conditions free of salt, tide, and mammals, with commercial shipping lanes and rugged undeveloped shorelines. The test rig’s 30-mile radius is clear of obstacles found on busier or more populated waters, such as manatee areas or heavy commercial and recreational traffic. “We can provide some obstacles for testing purposes,” White said. “We do it in a way that the interactions are more controlled and less random.”

“We welcome people who need a place to launch their innovations and experiment in a safe and controlled environment. We have the local knowledge and experience to help you,” White added. The 2011 former Tech holds a US Coast Guard 50-Ton Captain’s License and is a professional fishing guide deeply familiar with the mercurial moods of Superior. With the help of the MTEC SmartZone, White applied his knowledge and passion to development and marketing ProNav Marinean intelligent GPS-guided autopilot system.

“This is the best place in the country to test this technology. We have a unique environment, accessibility and an abundance of support resources available at Michigan Tech.”Travis White, Smart Ships Coalition Coordinator, Great Lakes Research Center


designated a freshwater autonomous marine technology test site of its kind in the world


search seasons, including accessible arctic-like conditions

30 miles

radial testbed, encompassing a range of freshwater environments


Great Lakes agencies and organizations working to develop the Great Lakes Blue Economy

About the Great Lakes Research Center

As a co-founder of the coalition and host of the testbed, Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center is challenged to be a leader in the development and exploration of autonomous and intelligent maritime systems. The process relies on achieving a reliable level of control – for example, operating the standalone waverunner with multiple checks and balances, then adding smarter systems to the platform.

A self-driving jet ski-style vehicle that rolls over the waves maneuvers on the Keweenaw Waterway next to the Isle Royale seaplane with a marina in the background near Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center
Michigan Tech’s self-contained Yamaha Waverunner maneuvers from the docks of the Great Lakes Research Center, sharing the Keweenaw Waterway with the Isle Royale seaplane. Local pleasure craft are moored in the background at one of the area’s marinas.

Potential areas of research and development for the GLRC range from aquaculture and offshore renewable energy to maritime surveillance and navigation. White said the team’s current interests include wave dodging, which is accurately reading and reacting appropriately to sea conditions on the Great Lakes to help ships navigate safely. in choppy waters. Through a connected and growing network of smart buoysas good as first high frequency radar introduced in the Great Lakes, there is plenty of current wave height and wave direction data to work with, White said. “As far as I know, no one has really worked on dodging waves to this extent.”

GLRC researchers, who often refer to the Keweenaw as “the Arctic you can drive to”, are also exploring “winter hardening” of self-contained systems to increase durability for year-round use in Arctic-like environments. .

“Developing autonomy right here in our backyard is ideal. We are always ready to work with academic, government and industrial partners.”Travis White, Smart Ships Coalition Coordinator, Great Lakes Research Center

The GLRC harnesses the interdisciplinary expertise of biologists, geologists, chemists, engineers, remote sensing specialists and others to examine critical questions in freshwater research. This includes modeling for better climate predictions and predictions and assessing the spread of invasive species.

The GLRC accomplishes much of its work on, above, and under the waters of the Great Lakes using the latest technology. It is home to the upper supercomputer, MARS and the Smart Ships Coalition, as well as MTU’s fleet of surface and underground research vessels.

Other ongoing projects include research in collaboration with the Mackinac Economic Alliance and Mackinac Marine Services which will reveal the potential for electrification of Mackinac Island ferries. The Center is also investigating the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the detection and recognition of underwater targets, including shipwrecks.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and enrolls more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the top universities in the nation for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate programs in science and technology, engineering, computer science, forestry, business and economics, health professions, science humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is located a few miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, providing year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.