Using Automation to Optimize Small-Craft Energy Consumption

June 12, 2019 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm America/New York Timezone
Community Room
150 Staniford Street
MA 02114

Robotics and Automation Society

Boston RAS Chapter Elections and a Talk by Dr. Kenn Sebesta

Join us to elect a new leadership for the Boston Chapter of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and for a talk by Dr. Kenn Sebesta on the use of automation to optimize small-craft energy consumption. Dr. Sebesta is an accomplished roboticist and autonomy engineer, you can see some of his previous talks here:

Meeting Location: Community Room,150 Staniford St, Boston, MA 02114.

Large ocean-going craft are already well optimized. Further optimizations mostly happen on the logistics and path planning front, or even earlier at the design stage. Small-craft have been largely left out of the optimization discussion as they are owned and operated by individuals instead of teams. Small-craft also pose challenges because they are not maintained with as much rigor, and their operating schedule and environment is less regimented. Lastly, there is little funding or opportunity available to replace a boat for a more efficient hull design, or replace the engine for a more efficient powerplant.

Optimization requires knowing what and how: what have we got and how are we going to control it? In the case of a small-craft, identifying the what is challenging. Boat motion and stability through a troubled sea is completely different from a calm sea, currents can sap or double the boat speed, the wind can push the boat around, and a boat full of fish sits much lower in the water than an empty one. We can answer these questions, and more, by the use of Kalman filtering.

Once we have thoroughly characterized a boat, we can turn to optimization algorithms, such as the Pontryagin Maximum Principle. These let us give the captain real-time commands which can reduce fuel consumption or increase speed. The advantage is that the commands are dynamically tailored to the specific boat under the specific conditions.

The strategy is generalizable both to motorboats and to sailboats.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Kenn Sebesta

With a Ph.D. in controls, Kenn Sebesta designs robots and algorithms for scientists and engineers. He is a co-founder of one of the world’s largest open-source autopilot initiatives, and has recently shifted into the marine space. Years of experience on the water, skippering everything from racing trimarans to MIT’s 116-year-old Mashnee, show convincingly that the same paradigm shift which powered the drones explosion is now possible in the marine environment. Kenn is currently exploring how to develop situationally-explicit optimization algorithms for small craft, and in his spare time muses about the wealth of other exciting opportunities on– and under– the water.