Unmanned sail prototype prepares for launch

A prototype of an unmanned sailing ship will begin a test voyage this fall.

Although Harbor Wing will operate without a captain and crew by sailing on a pre-programmed course, “the man is always in the loop,” Ott said. An operator, seated at a computer that could be hundreds of miles away, can control the craft with keystrokes that relay commands via satellite. The transmission gap, from order to receipt, is only 18 seconds, which “on the open ocean is not much,” he said, “so you have very close control.”