10 Oct

The Future of Robotics in Marine Environment

By Dez Duran-Lamanilao

In the previous blog, we have demonstrated the dominating power of robots. In fact, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), more than 1.4 million industrial robots are expected to be installed in factories across the globe by 2019, with the strongest growth drivers for the industry found in China.

Robots do not exist only for the improvement of maritime processes but may even add value to a ship’s overall image. An example is Royal Caribbean’s robot bartenders, the first in the world, which can produce two drinks per minute and can make up to 1,000 each day. Guests can customize their orders and monitor how their drinks are being mixed up.


Marine robotics faces many challenges especially in terms of navigation algorithms, networked systems, and sensing and measurements. While these factors may delay the innovation and advances companies are exploring to establish their presence, a lot has also already been done to elevate the level of robotics in the ocean.

Here are examples of emerging technologies shared by the World Economic Forum that are altering the course of marine environment; on the extent of their impact to each of the elements comprising the industry is something experts are still anticipating.

  • Autonomous ships to increase efficiency and reduce harmful emissions that are a major source of ocean pollution
  • Undersea cloud computing to store majority of the Internet traffic via undersea cables. Microsoft’s successful testing of a prototype underwater cloud pods in 2015 is an accomplishment worthy to be mentioned.
  • Ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) technique that can exploit the temperature variance between shallow tropical waters and the deep sea to generate electricity; such can also supply potable fresh water to ocean vessels
  • Ocean big data that can help detect illegal fishing, promote maritime security and monitor habitat changes in almost real-time
  • Improved marine sensors to properly map the ocean floor and waterways and collect data for dredging, subsea construction, and coastline construction, thus mitigating any negative impacts these operations have on the marine environment

Every vessel has opportunities waiting to be tapped. And issues waiting to be resolved. Linear robotic systems, for example, may feature a compact design capable of performing parts assembly or handling heavy molded parts, depending on process specifications.


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