Ice management is a complex and expensive undertaking that generally requires special purpose icebreaking vessels. This project will investigate whether a fleet of autonomous vessels, anticipated to be much smaller than typical icebreakers, can manage ice fields by pushing the ice away from the channel of interest. The autonomous nature of this fleet is crucial as it would allow operation over a larger time window than conventional vessels. In principle, ice management could become a continuous process, greatly easing the planning process for commercial vessels to utilize the waterway.
Rather than applying a traditional model-based approach, this project will employ existing ice simulation technologies developed at NRC-OCRE in combination with model-free reinforcement learning to arrive at a design for the vessel controllers that maintains the channel’s navigability.