Originally Posted by waterbug_wpb
weren't those mark boats last cycle semi-drones? They maintained stationary position using the same principles as today's drones, right?

The last cycle (leading up to the SF finals) had a variety of things for marks.

The first marks were the smaller boats, very sparse and would carry a driver, one crew and 3-4 photographers. These were manually run like any other twin screw. They had telemetry to show the driver the location (selected by the PRO through the system), and the driver had to get the boat there and hold station. Coutts hit one of these in Newport, while rounding during a race. I'm most familiar with these because I was on one during racing in Newport.

The next iteration was a larger boat, which was used for carrying VIPs. They carried closer to 20 people, with a driver, 2-3 crew and additional wait staff crew (as well as a dozen or so VIPs). They each had a galley in one hull. These boats were manually driven into position, but allegedly could automatically hold station. ETNZ hit one of these in Newport, on the way back to the harbor. I was aboard one of these in Newport, but only at the dock, so I didn't see it in action (we were the weather mark, the larger boats were the leeward marks).

After the accident that killed Bart, they did a major safety overhaul of the entire regatta, and while no one had been hurt due a collision between a racing boat and a mark boat, it was pretty clear that was probably only a matter of time.

So, they switched to inflatable marks, literally taking the base from a kid's bounce house, using that as the base for the prototype. They needed something big enough to carry telemetry equipment, be seen from afar, etc. They were manually set with an anchor, and did not have any other means to hold station.

John Craig gave a pretty cool chat about the progression of RC technology at one of the US Sailing meetings a few years ago, and did state that his dream would be to have remotely controlled marks that could hold station, and that he could move with a joystick.

The marks NYYC is looking at are supposed to be towed out, but can then hold station.

I'm sure that at a tech level, there's some similarity to flying drones, but are those capable of following instructions to autonomously go to a specified location without manual (remote) controls?