World first: Avikus and the autonomous leisure boat

If you thought driver aids had reached their zenith in the form of advanced autopilots, intuitive joystick control and slick user interfaces, then the Avikus approach is likely to come as a very pleasant surprise.

When you head out on your boat for some well-earned R&R, sometimes you just want to take it easy and leave the work to somebody else. At times like those, wouldn’t it be great if you could press a button and let a fully autonomous system take charge of the nav plan, the helming and the berthing? That’s precisely what autonomous navigation specialist, Avikus, is ready to deliver.

Established in January 2021 by shipbuilding superpower, Hyundai Heavy Industry Group, Avikus has already overseen the unmanned operation of a passenger boat at a demo event in South Korea, where it carried 12 people along a complex six-mile stretch of busy canal, without any human intervention. And in the wake of that event, the company is forging ahead with its work.

After presenting its pioneering technologies at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2022, the plan is to use its systems on the transoceanic voyage of a large merchant ship, before launching the world’s first autonomous leisure boat later that same year.

Now clearly the technologies involved in a ‘self-driving’ yacht are highly sophisticated, but Avikus has gone to great pains to ensure that its three leisure boat systems are very easy to understand. As an ‘IMO Degree 1’ solution, NAS (or Navigation Assistance System) is designed to operate with seafarers on board.

It combines radar, AIS and both electro-optic and infrared cameras for full-spectrum efficiency and outstanding accuracy. It can detect ships not recognised by AIS, as well as providing lookout assistance, collision and grounding alarms and integrated night vision.

BAS (or Berthing Assistant System) adds autonomous berthing capability to the mix, with real-time all-round vessel view and live distance indication. And as an ‘IMO Degree 2’ solution, NAS2.0 enables full automatic control.

This means that, once you’ve keyed in your favoured destination, the system will devise a route and then execute the nav plan, controlling your boat, recognising and avoiding obstacles and even docking like a professional at your marina of choice.

While that clearly presents enormous potential for boaters to take the stress out of planning, navigation and berthing operations, Lim Do-hyeong, CEO of Avikus, is clear that two of the greatest benefits relate to time and safety: “By applying autonomous navigating technology to leisure boats, users can greatly reduce the time required for berthing as well as minimising the risk of accidents during operation.”

As an in-house subsidiary of the world’s number one shipbuilder, Avikus has also tailored its technologies to large merchant ships. Known as HiNAS (Hyundai Intelligent Navigation Assistant System), the commercial package is fully equipped to cope with unexpected situations, such as rough weather, strong currents and stray boats.

And having received 70 HiNAS orders in 2021 alone, Lim is clearly excited about the potential implications: “Our ‘Deep Learning’ technology greatly increases safety, because it automatically detects obstacles that the industry’s existing sensors might miss.

“If HiNAS becomes widely used, it will prevent hundreds of collisions and stranding accidents every year.” Suffice it to say, whether you operate a compact cruiser or an oceangoing container ship, Avikus looks well set to change the way you go boating…

To find out more, visit the official Avikus website or subscribe to the Avikus YouTube channel.


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