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Start-up of the Week: Unleash Future Boats sets sail

IFM_Unleash Future Boats
'Unleash Future Boats' defines autonomous products as the gateway to a new world, where intermodal transport will be part and parcel of our socio-economic set-up

In today’s episode of the “Start-up of the Week,” International Finance will talk about “Unleash Future Boats,” a German venture which, since its inception in 2020, has invested its efforts in developing electrical, autonomous boats with fuel cells and green hydrogen.

These boats are offering zero emissions, thereby helping the maritime sector to realise its vision of having clean and sustainable mobility and logistics on the water.

“Unleash Future Boats” is rewriting the rulebook of maritime transportation by developing retrofitting kits for conventional boats with low-voltage electrical propulsion systems and fuel cells as range extenders.

Knowing The Company In Detail

“Unleash Future Boats” is a “DeepTech Start-up”, which provides solutions for the biggest problems in shipping in the form of environmental pollution and low water.

Describing its products as autonomous and environmentally friendly ships, the venture said, “They (the boats) have electric propulsion with fuel cells and green hydrogen. This means that they are completely zero emission – for the air, the water and in terms of noise pollution. The individual mobility for every day is shifted from the street on the water, intermodal and connected. A team of 20 people is working on the mobility of tomorrow, continuously growing.”

The start-up has also launched another company under its banner, titled “Green Boats Engineering,” to provide retrofit kits for zero emission propulsions, which are battery-electric drives with a large range, powered by fuel cells and hydrogen range extenders.

Digital Test Field Schlei, the 42-kilometre estuary in Schleswig-Holstein is known as the official research area for the start-up’s semi-autonomous and autonomous maritime mobility concepts. Through “Project HANNAH,” “Unleash Future Boats” successfully launched Germany’s largest digital test field for fully autonomous maritime systems.

The German Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV) also funded the project in 2021.

In addition to the success of HANNAH, the start-up’s digital test field is also developing into a “Regulatory Sandbox” that invites the public, politics, industry, and policy-makers to jointly claim Germany’s technological advancements.

The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action awarded it with the “Innovation Prize for European Regulatory Sandboxes,” thereby recognising The Schlei as Europe’s test and validation centre for autonomous maritime systems.

“With the launch of Zero One in 2021, the team became one of the leading global disruptors developing fully autonomous boats and ships. This includes decision-making on the boat with all required functional safety and security implications,” the business noted.

Here Is The Product Line-Up

Talking about “Unleash Future Boats” and innovation, we have “Future One” and “Cargo One”.

“Future One” has been tailor-made for water transportation for both metropolitan and rural areas. These are autonomous boats, fully electric and powered by green hydrogen that will transport up to 12 people along with e-bikes, strollers and wheelchairs (basically small ferries, boats and ships equipped with futuristic and climate-friendly tech).

“Cargo One,” which is the world’s “first truck on the water,” as claimed by the start-up, is a fully electric, autonomous watercraft, powered by green hydrogen, aiming to ensure emission-free and economically attractive logistics service, while closing the digital gap in the transport chain through the start-up’s digital communication mechanism between the boats and ports.

In swarm mode, a “Cargo One” fleet “drives like a train on the waterways,” resulting in extremely large quantities of goods being transported in a climate-friendly manner.

“Cargo One” also uses a “Digital Port Protocol,” where these autonomous boats communicate with the “fully digital port of the future.” Concepts like secure communication between boats (Vessel-to-Vessel, V2V for short), and between the infrastructure on land and on the water (Vessel-to-infrastructure, or V2X) are getting tested by the German start-up through “Cargo One.”

An Innovative Sensor And Connectivity Network

“Unleash Future Boats” defines autonomous products as “the gateway to a new world,” where intermodal transport will be part and parcel of our socio-economic set-up. To fulfil the vision, the venture is heavily investing its efforts in the field of sensor technology and sensor fusion.

“Unleash Future Boats” is an interdisciplinary company, as its staffers have over 25 years of experience in fields like automotive and aerospace sectors, where sensor technology rules the roost. The new type of sensor architecture, developed by the venture, has been installed on a prototype boat named “Zero One”.

“Zero One,” apart from being capable of carrying multiple sensors, is easy to change and adapt. The product, as a test bed for the start-up’s sensor fusion concept, has proven the idea in real-world operational scenarios, thereby generating valuable data to permanently train and advance the sensor model and algorithms.

“Zero One” is internationally licensed fully autonomous and can be operated without any remote connection.

Next, we have the venture’s “Digital Connected Services,” which envisions a holistic concept for intermodal transport, under which autonomous boats and ships will promote the “intelligent use of waterways” in the smart cities of the future. The company believes that the potential around intelligent, intermodal and zero-emission waterways has remained untapped.

“Unleash Future Boats” wants to ensure that its boats eliminate up to 1000 vehicle movements per day, through a clever integration in which alternative transport solutions like bicycles, eBikes and scooters will be intelligently integrated.

“Thanks to the fuel cell on board, these can even be recharged while driving, which significantly increases the range of intermodal trips. We are already talking to more than six regions and three cities that are applying as pilot and early adopters,” the venture remarked further.

The Road Ahead

“Unleash Future Boats” has a simple goal: to build an entire ecosystem for future maritime solutions, where unmanned ships will become the mainstay, while ensuring zero emission and helping Europe to meet its climate commitments on a priority basis, while enabling a new era of maritime transportation, ocean research, digital logistics and mobility.

As of March 2024, the company is building its technology prototypes, apart from registering the longest digital test field on German federal waterways. The venture, which has also received grants and subsidies from the German government, state and European Union, reportedly invented a completely new sensor type, along with building a complete supply chain to scale fully automated production.

“Unleash Future Boats” has already prepared four international patent applications (including the one for its digital protocol between Vessels and Infrastructure), apart from activating and operating the biggest test field for product research, development and validation.

The innovative deep tech company has internationally been recognised with honours such as “Top Five out of 916 Analysed Sustainable Solutions Impacting Mobility” and “Top 10 out of 5424 Transportation Trends & Innovations in 2022″.

The venture is on full throttle, in terms of testing autonomous traffic on the water under realistic conditions. Its multi-industry expert team has a proven track record of building autonomous cars. From 2017 onwards, these professionals started designing zero-emission autonomous boats and ships. By 2020, the venture aced the challenge of developing new sensor technology and design architecture to address the much more advanced challenges of fully autonomous cruising on the water.

Now, it is planning intermodal mobility hubs for megacities and rural areas, along with a fully digital port. To create a “Logistics of Future,” the venture is also onboarding national and international disruptive logistics start-up players.

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