Developing the roboat

Everyone’s talking about autonomous cars, but what about robot boats? Delft researchers demonstrated their first prototype in a lab tank.

Okay, here’s the spoiler: the current roboat is remote-controlled and doesn’t navigate independently and autonomously. Researchers from the department of Maritime Transport Technology in the 3mE Faculty consider making a remote controlled platform as the first step in the development autonomous sailing.

Already, the model ship called Seabax is more advanced than the standard remote-controle. It receives a reference value for speed or course by wifi and then automatically adjusts the controls accordingly. Seabax also features camera’s that auto detect QR-codes around the basin. Such signs could be used to guide roboats around the harbour one day.

There is a long way to go in the development of robot ships, people agree. Research coordinator Dr. Rudy Negenborn expects outside demo’s with a swarm of boats by 2020 and another ten years before the first robot ships will tour the harbour. Patrolling, sampling water quality or collecting flotsam are some of the first applications that spring to mind.

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