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The Assessment of Unmanned Vessel Operation in Heavy Traffic Areas. Case Study of the North Sea Crossing by Unmanned Surface Vessel Sea-Kit


The continuous development of autonomous and unmanned technology is accelerating the adoption of unmanned vessels for various maritime operations. Despite the technological developments there is still a lack of clear regulatory and organizational frameworks for testing and exploiting the potential of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) in real-world maritime conditions. Such real-world testing becomes ever more complex when operating in multiple nations territorial waters. In May 2019 USV ‘Maxlimer’ crossed the North Sea from the United Kingdom to Belgium and back, carrying goods, to demonstrate the ability of unmanned surface vessels to interact with real marine traffic in an uncontrolled environment. The paper presents this mission in light of the current state of marine autonomy projects as well as the regulatory works conducted by various organizations worldwide.