Berthing mishaps could become a thing of the past if Yanmar’s self-docking technology takes off

Japanese marine diesel engine manufacturer Yanmar is working on technology that it says will ultimately be able to deliver hands-free automatic docking for leisure boats.

The system is currently being developed for an ‘autonomous surface vessel’, a robotic drone boat developed and built with JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) for use in dangerous waters as well as maritime survey and fishing applications.

The 4.5m vessel weighs almost two tonnes and can operate without any crew for up to 48 hours at speeds of around 5 knots. It even has the ability to self right itself in the event of a capsize. The first ASV will be used by JAMSTEC for continuous marine resources monitoring.

However, it’s the vessel’s autonomous piloting technology, which includes an auto docking system, that is likely to be of most interest to leisure boaters. The company has already said the technology could be integrated into private vessels to ‘reduce the hassle of docking and make boating a more enjoyable experience’.

The system uses satellite positioning technology together with corrective data from Yanmar’s proprietary digital repeater system to provide highly precise positioning data. Yanmar’s joystick control system uses this data to manoeuvre the boat into position and dock it.

The company says it can handle alongside and stern-to berthing as well as manoeuvre the boat into tight spaces like lifting docks and will be available to consumers after 2020.

Both Volvo and Raymarine are also working on their own solutions to automatic docking for leisure boats.