Inside Volvo Penta’s Self-docking Technology

The company aims to revolutionize the task by 2020.

Volvo Penta
Volvo Penta's self-docking technology will use five sensors — four ashore and one on board — to let a yacht know its precise location and the berth’s exact position, shape and size.Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta wants to lower stress levels when docking by using sensors, processors and Inboard Performance System (IPS) drives to guide a yacht autonomously into or alongside a berth — by the year 2020.

To self-dock, a yacht needs to know its precise location and the berth’s exact position, shape and size. Volvo Penta accomplishes this by using five sensors: four ashore and one on board.

“The sensors on the dock know the [docking] details and communicate with the boat,” says Anders Thorin, Volvo Penta’s marine electronics manager.

The technology operates as a networked function on the IPS’ controller area network. It requires Volvo Penta’s Joystick Driving and Dynamic Positioning System equipment to be installed.

“Once the captain has activated the self-docking function, the boat — aided by GPS — moves into a docking-ready position,” Thorin says. When the helmsman initiates the final stage, GPS and sensors are used to move the boat into a berth. The technology also lets the captain take control manually, if needed. Collision alert and avoidance features will be included in the system too.

Fast Facts on self-docking

  1. While Volvo Penta's prototype yacht uses one onboard sensor, the manufacturer will add obstacle-avoiding sensors to production systems.
  2. Volvo Penta's Easy Docking app gives the onboard operator real-time heading (compass rose) and progress (status bar) updates.
  3. Volvo Penta plans to market the technology to individual yacht owners while scaling and developing it for marinas.