Aksel Øvern has the opportunity to be the first person in the world to water ski behind an automated jet ski. The Coastal Shark student project impressed onlookers when the vessel, which was rebuilt as part of the project, was demonstrated in the summer.

  • Ove Ronny Haraldsen
    Group Communication Manager

Over the course of eight weeks, 13 summer students have achieved the incredible feat of getting an unmanned jet ski to run by itself. The project started last year when a 90 HP Sea Doo jet ski was rebuilt. This year the students have continued to rebuild the jet ski, while also developing the electronics and intelligence required to achieve the goal.

The boat will be an autonomous surface vessel that collects information on the surroundings in one or several given locations. This means that an operator can plot a route on a map and get the vessel to follow this route, without further interaction. Then it will be able to take pictures and videos of the surroundings and send them back to land, either directly or as a recording.

Vegard Saga, Project Manager for Coastal Shark, briefing KONGSBERG employees and co-students on the project.

“The boat was originally a request from the Norwegian Navy. They wanted to be able to search for submarines, mines etc. without putting human life or ships at risk. A vessel such as Ægir will be superior to everything that is currently available for such purposes”, says Project Manager, Vegard Saga, who is studying cybernetics at NTNU.

At the end of the summer project, the students sent out an invitation to a demonstration of the vessel on the Eikeren lake, fifteen minutes drive away from Kongsberg. The attraction of the event was water skiing. According to the students themselves, there are no other documented cases where an automated vessel has pulled a person on water skis. Aksel Øvern is, therefore, probably the first person to demonstrate this special form of water sport. 


“It is a lot of fun and very different. The water jet drives and turns on points automatically and adjusts its speed according to where it is in the water. It jerks a bit, but luckily it went well today when we demonstrated it,” Aksel tells after climbing out of the water.  

Why water skis?

“It was an idea that came from our manager, who started this project, Harald Ånnestad, who is the President of Kongsberg Defence Systems. One of the few requirements he set was that it must be possible to water ski behind the jet ski. This was a fun requirement for us students who had to comply with it”, explains Project Manager Vegard Saga. 


The long term objective is to develop an autonomous platform utilising a variety of sensors. Range of use can vary from military reconnaissance, mine hunting to search and rescue missions.

The students faced a wide range of challenges when trying to find systems that functioned well. The summer students have equipped the vessel with a composite cover, as well as a framework for equipment and electronics to control the boat digitally. Sensors for measuring position, direction and speed are implemented together with the regulators, so that the boat can follow the specified path.

Work is also being done to prepare algorithms to enable communication between a land station and the boat, as well as algorithms that allows users to plot a route on the map and have the boat follow this route. 

“It is a lot of fun to work with challenges such as this. In particular it has been inspiring to be involved in a project that uses modern technology, while simultaneously testing out what I have learnt at university. There are very few other places in Norway than at KONGSBERG where you are allowed to play with this level and quality of equipment and resources”, says Project Manager, Vegard Saga.

The multi-disciplinary project has very varied challenges. Students in the project are from NTNU and study cybernetics and robotics, communication technology, production and product development, and information technology. These subjects also reflect the wide range of academic variety evident in the completed project.

Geir Håøy, KONGSBERG CEO sees major benefits in having summer students working with the company.

“We are very proud and appreciate the fact that more young talents are looking to us for a summer job. We offer students exciting and relevant challenges with close follow-up from our experienced technologists. The summer student programme is a good recruitment arena for us, we learn a lot from them, and it is an important part of the corporate social responsibility for a major Norwegian technology company like KONGSBERG”, says Geir Håøy, CEO.

This year, a total of 1467 students applied for summer jobs at KONGSBERG. For many of the students, the summer months are a good opportunity to promote themselves to a potential employer. At the same time, it is a golden opportunity for the students to see whether this is a career path they would like to follow after their education has finished. 

Another group of students, hired by Kongsberg Maritime and FFI, has developed two vehicles for mine exploration this summer.

“Those who excel stand a good chance of being offered a job when they have graduated. It is also a good opportunity for us to get to know the students and the fresh knowledge they bring with them from their studies. They work on real-life tasks and challenges and they apply the latest methods and techniques. What the students work on is part of the development process for new products and solutions”, concludes Håøy.