Multi-vessel sea state estimation utilising swarm shepherding

Nathan K. Long, Daniel Sgarioto, Matthew Garratt, Karl Sammut, Hussein Abbass

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Sea State Estimation (SSE) remains critical to maritime operations worldwide. Presently, data on sea states is primarily collected by moored wave buoys in a relatively limited number of locations. Recently, research into the use of Uninhabited Surface Vessels (USVs), acting as an on-site wave buoy, has emerged. By measuring the response of the USV to wave motions and implementing a wave buoy analogy model, directional wave properties can be estimated. This study investigates the benefits of utilising an intelligent swarm of USVs (greater than two), with each member acting as a wave buoy, to estimate an aggregated sea state in real-time. Swarm intelligence can be defined as an interaction between relatively simple agents leading to the emergence of complex behaviours. It is hypothesised that a USV swarm can collaborate to enhance sea state characterisation. The challenge of swarm guidance is addressed by introducing a shepherd which guides the swarm of USVs with the intent of achieving the desired objective estimation. This method of control mimics the way a sheepdog is able to herd sheep to a target destination. A heuristic is presented which describes how a series of influential force vectors can generate swarm behaviours with the aid of a shepherd, and be used to distribute a network for the purpose of estimating the properties of a complex sea environment. The ability to estimate wave properties, with a higher degree of confidence, in-situ in any geographic region would allow maritime vessels to enhance operability, improve safety, and extend service life.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPacific International Maritime Conference (imc 2019)
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoyal Institution of Naval Architects
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781713808718, 9781713808718
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventRINA, Royal Institution of Naval Architects - Pacific 2019 International Maritime Conference, IMC 2019 - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 8 Oct 201910 Oct 2019


ConferenceRINA, Royal Institution of Naval Architects - Pacific 2019 International Maritime Conference, IMC 2019


  • swarm shepherding
  • Sea state estimation
  • Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV)


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