Image: Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta has unveiled what it calls the boating industry’s first fully integrated Assisted Docking system at CES 2021. Docking can be one of the most stressful and challenging aspects of boating–even for experienced captains, according to Peter Granqvist, senior vice president and CTO at Volvo Penta. The consequences of getting it wrong when docking a boat are expensive at best, and that is when weather conditions are good.

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Add to the mix crowded marinas, strong winds, and rough currents, and the outcome can be problematic and even quite dangerous, he said. Unlike a car, a boat never stands still without some maneuvering required, Granqvist noted. Moving in a straight line, into a narrow berth in foul weather, is much more difficult than steering the wheel of a car.

“Docking is probably the most critical moment in most people’s boating life,” added Anders Thorin, manager of product planning electronics at Volvo Penta. Most captains hesitate before coming into a dock, especially when it’s crowded, Thorin said.

“You have other expensive boats around you and wind and currents and you may not be used to the big boat you have,” he said. “Assisted docking is a great way to take stress levels down.”

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The Assisted Docking system integrates a software layer developed in-house with the company’s GPS-based Dynamic Positioning System and proprietary Inboard Performance Systems (IPS). The software includes a human-machine interface (HMI) at the helm, electronics via the engine, propulsion systems and sensors, and advanced navigation processing power to help create a much easier boating experience, even in rough conditions.

In the HMI display, the driver receives continuous information about the power that the system uses to support against wind and current. “This helps the driver to judge the situation and make the right decisions,” Thorin said.

The engine control data is designed to ease the docking process and make it more predictable to give the captain better control when docking a boat by automating his or her intentions. The system aims to compensate for certain dynamic variables, such as wind and current, and helping the vessel stay on its intended course.

How to dock a boat with Volvo Penta’s Assisted Docking system

The Assisted Docking system consists of the joystick that controls the steering input and the GPS-based Dynamic Positioning System antenna to know the exact position and heading. The captain maneuvers the vessel with the joystick, which informs the system which direction it should head in and at what speed.

The main features of the boat docking system are moving in straight lines without manual compensation, standing still, slow maneuvering functionality, rotating around a fixed point, micro re-positioning and alignment, and side push for sideways docking, Volvo Penta said. The system is designed to give the driver an easier boating experience with more precise steering and control.

The captain is still needed at the helm, but the docking system is constantly compensating for engine input and engine and drive output to help ensure the boat moves as intended, Volvo Penta said. Everything is designed to work together.

The Assisted Docking system will be available in the spring for installation on new boat models as an upgradeable option for Volvo Penta IPS-equipped motor yachts between 35 feet and 120 feet long. It is also available as a software and antenna upgrade for existing Volvo Penta IPS-powered boats.

“Many people understand it’s difficult to drive a boat and we believe many more people can enjoy boating and will be more safe and less stressed” with the Assisted Docking System, Granqvist said. “We’re hoping to attract a new arena of users.”

The company first unveiled its self-docking yacht prototype in 2018 during a live demo event at the Volvo Ocean Race in Gothenburg, Sweden.