We’ve talked about the “Ocean of Things” project before – the DARPA project designed to network thousands of small “floats” to deliver near real-time weather routing. It’s going to be the next big game changer in opening up the world’s oceans to people who want to voyage, but need better tools to make it safer and more comfortable.
What’s remarkable about this new project is that not only will it provide better weather routing – it will, in fact, transform how boats navigate the world. By networking near real-time weather with algorithms that constantly update the best route, there is the very real possibility of turning your boat into an autonomous world voyager. For power boats, it could be as simple as tying this new routing system into the autopilot so that the boat constantly corrects for the best route. Think of it as connecting your boat to Waze and letting go of the wheel – if you want to. Of course, you still need to be on watch, but you no longer have to download and pour over charts and make estimates of the best route. You relax knowing that your boat is taking the safest, fastest route to your destination.
For sailboats, it’s of course a little more complicated. Autonomous voyaging means tying all the sail handling into a system that accounts for wind speed and direction – and all of this consumes valuable energy. At the very least, a new Ocean of Things model can alert you to significant changes in weather that impact your course. You focus on the sailing, not which way is safest – and know that as conditions change, so does your route. For more novice voyagers, this opens up the world even more, just as GPS, AIS, and other navigation electronics have.