This week's Volvo Ocean Race in Gothenburg, Sweden saw the unveiling of Volvo Penta’s pioneering self-docking Inboard Performance System (IPS) yacht system that the company hopes to launch by 2020.
A statement released by the supplier of engines and power solutions for marine and industrial applications announced that prototypes of the technology are currently in development trials.
“Docking is one of the most challenging boat handling maneuvers – getting it wrong can be embarrassing, expensive and precarious,” said Björn Ingemanson, President of Volvo Penta, in the release. “Our IPS system has already taken great strides in making docking easier, and this new self-docking feature takes that process one important stage further."
Ingemanson explained the new system is equipped with sensors and computers that continuously respond to wind and sea conditions and adjust the IPS drive accordingly in just milliseconds, keeping the yacht safe and on course. "Even in changing sea conditions it can make the sea appear to stand still,” added the president.
Volvo Penta's docking process technology works in three phases. The first phase sees the system recognize the boat entering a berth and release a signal to the captain that the yacht is ready to dock.
The signal prompts the captain to activate the self-docking function that allows a GPS system to autonomously guide the boat into a ‘docking ready’ position. The final stage is undertaken by a collaboration of GPS and sensors, on the boat and on the dock, that navigate the yacht into the berth accurately and safely.
Easy docking achieved
“We have long had the ambition to make docking as easy as possible,” said Johan Inden, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Penta. “Now, we are taking the next important step by enabling the boat to dock itself. With our easy docking concept, we aim to attract more people to enjoy the boating experience.”
The Volvo Ocean Race saw a live demonstration of the advanced autonomous system. A video of the event can be seen on Volvo Penta's YouTube channel were an impressive 68 ft yacht gracefully docks itself into a small opening between two Volvo Ocean Race 65 racing yachts without touching either one.
Further good news is that the soon-to-be-launched system will not be exclusive to Volvo Penta's new yachts. The firm is planning the release of a retrofit version that could be installed as an upgrade on other boats.
The company hopes that the system will also one day be useful to harbors and marinas who want to ensure the secure docking of their boats. Volvo Penta’s Easy Connect application could also be adapted to help inform boat owners if the nearest docking station is equipped with self-docking technology and even book them an available parking spot.
This latest innovation is part of Volvo Penta’s ongoing ‘Easy Boating’ philosophy aimed at making "boating simple, enjoyable and accessible to more people." It looks like the company might want to add 'safe' to that list.