Voyagers making coastal passages may start encountering unmanned work vessels because a marine technology company in Boston named Sea Machines Robotics is now offering an autonomous vessel control system for small work boats. It's called the 300 Autonomous Control System and it allows an operator to control the vessel remotely with a joystick or to set the vessel to follow several pre-programmed operations.
Sea Machine describes its the 300 system this way: "Sea Machines’ Autonomous Control System for work boats uses common vessel-based instruments and proprietary algorithms to give the watercraft a degree of self-awareness, enabling the boat to efficiently self-motor from point-to-point while avoiding active & passive obstacles or collaborate in tandem with another vessel. The system links to all on-board propulsion, steering, and thrust machinery for active vessel control as well as necessary instruments and sensors. A remote user interface is provided for command and control as well as data reception from the autonomous vessel."
Amazing technology and probably the wave of the future, but it reduces the number of people on the water and makes things a bit more lonely. There is also a safety aspect. There are less people to render assistance in the event of a problem. It's true that the cameras on the Sea Machines vessel can spot a nearby vessel in distress and the operator on shore can call the Coast Guard, but an actual crew on a work boat can power over and render some immediate help as they call the Coast Guard.