Michigan Technological University’s Great Lakes Research Center was the site for the unveiling of the Maritime Autonomy Research Site (MARS)–the
first freshwater testbed of its kind in the world–Friday, Aug. 10.
The unveiling of MARS was held in conjunction with the launch of the Smart Ships Coalition,
designed to study and set ground rules for the use of autonomous marine vehicles on
the Great Lakes. The coalition is made up of scientists, policy makers, resource managers,
innovators, navigators and educators that share a common interest in the advancement
of autonomous technologies in marine environments.
Representatives of many of the coalition’s partners were on hand for Friday’s launch
ceremony, hosted by Guy Meadows, director of the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Meadows said autonomous marine
vehicles are the future and “we get to set the future.”
U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman said, “This center puts us on the cutting edge. And if you’re
not on the cutting edge, you’re behind.”
Among the coalition’s partner organizations is the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Governors
and Premieres, chaired by Governor Rick Snyder. The group’s Executive Director David
Naftzger said, “Shipping will look different in 25 years. Largely because of the work
Also participating in the launch were Michigan Tech President Richard Koubek; Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes; State Senator Tom
Casperson; State Representative Scott Dianda; Kevin Kohlmann, director of the Office
of Safety, U.S. Maritime Administration; Bruce Kelly, policy advisor for Transport
Canada; Lt. Abbie Lyons, U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit, Station Duluth and representatives
from the offices of Governor Rick Snyder and U.S. Senators Debbie Stabinow and Gary
Putting research into practice
Travis White (GLRC) explained how autonomous marine vehicles are already being used.
His Houghton company, Pro Nav Marine, manufactures a buoy used for sailboat racing.
“It uses GPS …