Antwerp Introduces Autonomous Vessel


The Port of Antwerp has continued its progress towards becoming a smart port by introducing a new fully automatic sounding boat that employs unique technology.

The fully autonomous ‘Echodrone’ is a prototype that will supplement a larger sounding boat in Antwerp, the ‘Echo’, in measuring water depth throughout the port.

It will guarantee the safe passage of container ships as they arrive and depart from terminals and is able to operate in heavy shipping traffic due to its size.

Find out how automation is changing the Port of Rotterdam by reading a Port Technology technical paper

Piet Opstaele, Innovation Enablement Manager at the Port of Antwerp, commented: “As a world-class player we as a port aim to be a leader in developing innovative concepts.

“In this way we are laying the foundations for the 'smart port' of the future, in which digital technologies are used to make the land-based and water-based operations more flexible, responsive and efficient.

“With the help of the Echodrone it will be possible in future to carry out other types of measurements, such as environmental surveys, inspecting quay walls and so on.”


The Echodrone, courtesy of Port of Antwerp


The data collected by both of these machines is shared via a cloud-based system, developed in partnership by Antwerp’s port authority and maritime technology company dotOcean.

Koen Geirnaert, Co-Founder of dotOcean, said: “Data from all sorts of devices throughout the port is made available over the internet and then selectively compiled and translated into useful information by algorithms in the cloud.

“The Echodrone is designed to navigate fully independently using this verified data, unlike the previous generation of automatic vessels that had to rely on their own onboard sensors. This makes the Echodrone one of the first of a completely new generation of robots.”

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