You're at a harbor in a remote location—perhaps a construction site in a developing country or a military base on an island—awaiting delivery of a large shipment. But instead of a ship on the horizon, you spot a single, 40-foot container speeding through the water, throwing up an impressive bow wave as it heads directly for shore. No ship, just the container.
It's not your imagination. A Germantown, Md., company called Aeplog Inc. has developed a self-propelled ocean container, dubbed the Autonomous Sustainment Cargo Container (ASCC) but commonly known as a Sea Truck. The Sea Truck system consists of a propulsion module and a bow module that attach directly to commercial cargo containers, converting the containers into self-propelled, autonomously controlled cargo vehicles. Once at destination, the container could be retrieved by a mobile crane as it approaches the beach. It could also be instructed to pull up alongside a dock for pickup by a shoreside crane with standard commercial fittings. A modular "pneumatic crawler" add-on enables the container to roll onto a beach.
Aeplog, which has conducted sea trials of both diesel and electric motor versions, has successfully demonstrated on-board manual control and steering as well as remote control via WiFi and radio-frequency signals. Commercially available GPS-guided navigation software can be used to direct the Sea Truck.
The unique "vessel" has drawn interest principally from the U.S. military, which could benefit from the ability to deliver materiel in remote or dangerous conditions as well as the ability to dynamically alter the Sea Truck's path in response to changing tactical situations. But the developers say there are many potential commercial applications, including delivery of humanitarian aid and disaster relief, serving offshore mining and oil operations, and delivery of containers from ships positioned offshore without the need to transfer to smaller ships or barges.