Photo: Abu Dhabi Maritime
Autonomous water taxis for passenger transportation in Abu Dhabi city and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) for cargo movement will soon be introduced as part of an innovative collaboration to revolutionize land, air and sea operations with artificial intelligence and solutions robotics.
Abu Dhabi Technology Innovation Institute (TII) entities, Aspire and Maqta Gateway, part of the AD Ports Group digital cluster, recently signed an agreement to develop innovative solutions, concepts and applications.
Jeremy Nicola, Senior Director at TII, provided a detailed insight into plans to provide real-world solutions to several of Abu Dhabi Ports’ maritime infrastructure challenges.
“The scope of the project covers UGVs for the movement of general cargo of different dimensions in warehouse areas and autonomous water taxis for transporting people from the Abu Dhabi mainland to neighboring islands. They will eventually become part of the maritime infrastructure assets of the Department of Transport,” Nicola told Khaleej Times in an interview.
TII is an applied research pillar of the Abu Dhabi Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC) focused on developing new-age technological capabilities.
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ASV to increase safety and efficiency
Nicola stressed that autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) for city-to-island passenger transport would increase efficiency, safety and reliability, reduce costs and optimize the passenger experience.
“ASVs can revolutionize city-to-island passenger transportation by increasing efficiency and reducing costs by optimizing routes and adjusting their schedules in real time based on traffic and weather conditions. They can reduce operating costs and mitigate the need for human crews, and limit maintenance costs compared to traditional ferries. “They provide 24/7 on-demand transportation, even in difficult conditions.”
Nicola said ASVs minimize human error and increase situational awareness using a combination of LiDAR and radar technologies and additional sensors.
“These sensors offer 360-degree multimodal views of the environment, a considerable advantage in ensuring safe and efficient transportation. “ASVs could offer a smoother, more comfortable ride with adaptive speeds.”
UGV to transform the cargo industry
Meanwhile, UGVs will transform cargo movement by enhancing productivity, safety, profitability and more, including reducing accident risks.
“UGVs, by operating continuously, improve efficiency and productivity, offering a level of performance beyond human capabilities. They can also navigate complex environments with precision, ensuring higher performance and reduced response times for ships and cargo. “They help improve safety and eliminate the need for human workers to operate in hazardous environments, such as near heavy machinery or in hazardous weather conditions, thereby reducing the risks of accidents and injuries.”
Nicola stressed that TII’s technology solutions will help Abu Dhabi Ports improve cost efficiency by automating many manually performed tasks, such as loading and unloading cargo.
“UGVs are equipped with sensors that can collect data on cargo movement, such as weight, dimensions and location, to improve efficiency and optimize operations. “UGVs, in the long term, can assist in container handling, storage and inspection of cargo for damage or contraband, helping to improve safety and prevent the spread of pests and diseases.”
Robots versus humans
Nicola noted that advanced robotics significantly accelerate the efficiency and productivity of customized UGVs and ASVs by enabling better navigation, obstacle avoidance and adaptive decision-making.
“These technologies employ cutting-edge sensors, artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning to interpret their environment, enabling more precise movement and autonomous operation. Robotics helps make vehicles smarter and more agile, optimizing their ability to perform complex tasks in diverse environments with minimal human intervention. Overall, robotics makes vehicles safer, more reliable and efficient in areas such as logistics, surveillance, exploration and research.”
He clarified that the idea of using robots was aimed at relieving humans of routine, repetitive and stressful tasks in potentially dangerous situations or spaces that are difficult for humans to access.
“As a general rule, all situations where human performance or safety may be affected by exhaustion, risk or similar factors are good candidates for robotic automation.”
Nicola noted that the technological solutions are subject to rigorous training and testing in real-world scenarios to anticipate all potential challenges at the Autonomous Robotics Research Center.
“Our main strategy to ensure the security of our AI-powered solutions is to collaborate closely with the UAE authorities. “We aim to meet the strictest safety standards currently available and, where these standards do not already exist, we will work in partnership with these authorities to help define them.”
An unprecedented leap for Abu Dhabi
Nicola underlined that the merger of custom UGVs and ASVs along with the significant progress made in robotics represents an “unparalleled leap” for Abu Dhabi’s digital transformation and innovation landscape.
“These pioneering technologies transcend mere functional improvements in freight and public transportation. They design a new era of interconnected systems that are helping to reshape smart city infrastructure. A comprehensive, digital-first approach establishes the emirate as a role model for digital transformation, influencing other regions to embark on similar journeys towards a smarter, more connected future.”
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