Raymarine, Mercury and Boston Whaler Demonstrate New Assisted-Docking System

Collaboration marks the dawn of autonomous vessel-control technology for recreational boaters.

Raymarine DockSense Assisted Docking System
Raymarine's DockSense uses camera sensors and an app on the company's Axiom multifunction displays.Courtesy Raymarine

Raymarine, Mercury Marine and Boston Whaler today demonstrated for media in Florida an assisted-docking system that was first announced by Raymarine earlier this month at an international boat show in Germany. The new DockSense system will also be on display Feb. 14-18 at the Miami International Boat Show.

DockSense uses a Virtual Bumper zone around the vessel to assist boat owners in tight-quarter docking. Camera sensors continuously monitor the vessel's surroundings, keeping the system updated with real-time detection of objects like pilings or vessels. DockSense includes multiple FLIR machine vision cameras, a central processing module and an app running on Raymarine's Axiom navigation display.

DockSense provides feedback to the Mercury Autonomous system to allow the boat’s joystick piloting setup to autonomously respond and ensure a smooth docking process. Integrating DockSense “is a natural next step for Mercury,” the outboard company said in a statement released today. More than a decade ago, Mercury introduced Zeus and Axius joystick-steering systems, and in 2013, Mercury debuted Joystick Piloting for Outboards (JPO). All three were developed as precursors to autonomous vessel control.

DockSense and Mercury Autonomous system
The DockSense system integrates with Mercury's Autonomous system to monitor the vessel's surroundings and modify positioning.Courtesy Raymarine

At the demonstration, which took place at a Mercury Marine testing facility in central Florida, DockSense was featured aboard a 33-foot Boston Whaler Outrage center console, rigged with twin Mercury Verado engines with JPO and with Mercury’s advanced piloting-assist system. This new system is a core technology based on the latest aerospace control systems and autonomous-car Artificial Intelligence, the company says.

While not in the market yet, Mercury’s autonomous system will support a variety of future uses for assisted and semi-autonomous functionality, as it can be integrated with sensors like cameras and lidar, a detection system that works on the principle of radar but uses light from a laser. The Florida demonstrations will be used to capture market feedback toward adoption and commercialization of these technologies.

Mercury Marine and Boston Whaler are brands owned by the Brunswick Corporation. Raymarine and FLIR are owned by FLIR Systems.