Experimental Autonomous Navigation RIB
Last weekend (actually, Monday 2-22), ran into a couple of guys from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. They pulled up in a truck with a strange-looking RIB in tow. After launching, the truck disappeared to show up a bit later with a more conventional-looking RIB.
After a bit of chatting, it turned out that they were experimenting with an Autonomous Navigation system, using a custom designed Northwind RIB as a testbed (Northwind is a Seattle-based builder.) The chase RIB was also a Northwind boat.
So, the info I got was: a custom computer interprets GPS (and I think, radar) info, and controls throttle and steering. Forward looking sonar on both sides aids in avoiding underwater obstacles (the outriggers visible in the side-plan pics.) The chase boat has a radio controlled system override and remote control unit. A small hatch revealed a seat, wheel and throttle for ferrying to and from test sites (on that day, they were operating about a half mile outside the harbor, using a couple of existing buoys as nav points. I happened to be diving about 200 yds from where they decided to base the chase boat.)
Power for the testbed was a small diesel driving a Mercury jet unit. I can say one thing: the thing was loud. I could plainly hear the throttle changing from a quarter mile.
I have no idea what they were testing, but in the 20 minutes or so that I watched, the testbed would take off, sort of wander back and forth across a track heading roughly for the second buoy, with occasional circles at the outside turns. Eventually it made it pretty close to the second buoy, then the chase boat moved to close on it, and everything started over going the other way. Occasionally, the chase boat would move to intercept fishermen who decided to buzz the testbed on their way out.
Anyway, I thought it was sort of interesting...