New Hull Service Robot Begins First in-Water Trials

The Hull Service Robot was recently launched for its first in-water trials at Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA. Photo courtesy of Armach Robotics.

Armach Robotics (Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA) was launched in November 2021 as a spinoff company from marine software group Greensea Systems Inc. (Richmond, Vermont, USA). Its mission was to capitalize on Greensea’s digital expertise to offer an industry-leading subscription model for a proactive and robotic hull cleaning system using autonomy, intelligence, and data fusion.

Part of the company’s proposition is the hull service robot (HSR). Described as a disruptive technology in hull cleaning, it is portable at under 66 lb (30 kg) and around 34 inches (86 cm) long, which greatly reduces deployment costs while increasing convenience.

This compact robot was recently launched for its first in-water trials, marking an important milestone in making proactive water cleaning a viable solution for fuel saving and optimized ship performance.

“My favorite job in this industry is working on next-generation systems,” says James Truman, Armach’s vice president of engineering. “The team learns so much in the development and testing of a product for a new application. But once a vehicle is sufficiently functional, then the pace of design evolution slows dramatically. Designing the next generation, once you have a good understanding of the requirements and have developed proven key components, is an amazing opportunity.”

The original prototypes consisted of off-the-shelf navigation systems, a custom crawler skid, and a separate remotely operated vehicle all bolted together. But as Truman explains, there were more efficient ways of integrating this equipment in the finalized vehicle.

“It worked well in the prototypes but was expensive and clunky,” Truman says. “For the purpose-built Armach HSR, we stripped out a lot of the structural and electrical overhead from the prototypes. That gave us a smaller, lighter, and more streamlined vehicle that can operate in faster water currents and on lower friction coatings. We've tested extensively to minimize hull-coating impact and will continue accelerated life testing and design iteration to ensure long-term reliability.”

Greensea has significant experience in intelligent control systems for underwater robots, which is how Armach came into being. The vehicle is purpose-built around miniaturized navigation sensors. According to the company, Greensea’s OPENSEA technology fuses a navigation solution from the myriad of sensors and provides excellent vehicle control.

For the HSR vehicle, Armach designed and is producing the electro-mechanical drive and cleaning components in-house. This is because the group needed not only high power-density and unique packaging, but also precision control and feedback. This approach pays dividends when it comes to in-water usability and control, along with the quality of hull data fed back.

“The resulting performance driving on a hull as well as the free-flying stability are amazing,” Truman says. “The networked architecture and SAFEC2 functionality mean we can monitor or control the vehicles from anywhere in the world.”

Ultimately, Armach says it is now able to offer shipowners a proactive, autonomous in-water robotic cleaning solution. The company’s “Robot as a Service” solution brings shipowners a constantly clean hull, and following each cleaning operation, it also provides an accurate georeferenced hull condition survey. The technology is not coating specific and is based on a state-of-the-art system, powered by Greensea’s autonomy, intelligence, and data fusion technologies.

The company’s business model provides cleaning robots to ships, ports, harbors, and established service providers on a monthly subscription basis. More information is available at the group’s website.

Source: Armach Robotics,