SAFE Boats Unveils Autonomous Hydrographic Survey Vessel

Autonomous hydrographic survey vessel Merlin. Image: SAFE Boats.

Bremerton, Wash.-based boat builder SAFE Boats International in late March announced the introduction of its new autonomous hydrographic survey vessel: Merlin. The 23-meter semi-displacement monohull design was developed in collaboration with marine autonomy developer Mythos AI, equipment supplier Echo81 and World Marine Design.

SAFE Boats International says that it has exclusive rights to build the design at its Tacoma-area large-craft production facility.

Merlin will be a Jones Act-compliant all-aluminum hull powered by a twin Volvo Penta D13 Hybrid-ready System with IPS,” the company said in a statement. “For a zero-emission power package, the Merlin can accommodate forward-thinking hydrogen technology supplied by Zero Emission Industries.”

According to SAFE Boats, both power options offer lower emissions and extended range to perform site assessment surveys at offshore wind energy areas, while three deck levels offer crew and technicians sleeping berths, full bathroom, galley, survey workstation, and a marine mammal observer post on the flybridge.

Also, the aft working deck is equipped with an A-Frame, dual winches, moonpool and outboard seismic booms. The hull was specifically designed to incorporate advanced sonars with minimal interference while collecting data at a highly efficient pace.

In addition, Seakeeper gyro provides active ride control, enhancing stability and crew comfort, SAFE Boats said. A shallow draft of 1.6m allows the survey vessel to perform various survey missions and make port in small or large harbors across the U.S.

Thanks to hydrographic systems provider Echo81, Merlin is the industry’s first geophysical vessel that can be acquired directly from SAFE Boats with a fully integrated geophysical sensor suite configured specifically for U.S. offshore wind.

Echo81 provides a single source for sensor service and support, drastically reducing the cost burdens associated with owning and operating survey vessels.

Mythos AI is responsible for optimizing Merlin vessels for autonomous survey operations. Mythos AI’s advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) are designed to automate geophysical workflows so that skilled hydrographers and crew are not required to physically be onboard the vessel.

“As Mythos AI’s technology advances, it will be capable of providing a push-button, long endurance, dock-to-dock, self-driving and self-surveying solution for offshore wind,” SAFE Boats said.