As part of an effort to achieve safer and more efficient working conditions, KOTUG – a provider of towing and related services to the maritime industry – has applied for a patent to use a drone in its tug operations.
According to the company, which is based out of the Netherlands, the invention – using a drone to connect the towline to an assisted vessel – drastically improves the safety margin of tug operations, as the crew does not have to maneuver in the so-called “danger zone.”
KOTUG says the drone, with object-recognition software, can deliver a messenger line to a predetermined location – in this case, the assisted ship. The tug can safely sail beside the assisted ship instead of in front of it, the company explains.
Conventionally, tugboat and crew position themselves in front of and close to the assisted vessel in order to grab the heaving line by hand. By doing so, the tug and crew position themselves in the danger zone: close to and even under the bow of a vessel. A minor flaw in the operation can result in major injuries of the deck crew and/or damage to the tug and the assisted vessel, says KOTUG.
The company is planning a series of tests for the drone technology. Standard operating procedures will be developed in conjunction with relevant authorities and stakeholders, notes KOTUG.