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This article was published on December 6, 2008

Roboat – A Robotic Sailboat Powered by Linux

Roboat – A Robotic Sailboat Powered by Linux
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

A group of European sailing enthusiasts have just created a solar-powered, Linux-brained sailboat that can sail anywhere and navigate pre-set race courses with no human intervention whatsever! Sounds like a novices dream and a fantastic way for beginners to learn.

The Roboat can calculate the optimal route by weighting drift coordinates against weather parameters. The rudder and sails as well as the tacks and jibes are autonomously controlled by incoming data from sensors (GPS, compass, anemometer, etc.), which are analysed using artificial intelligence.

According to CleanTechnica: The Roboat is actually an adapted 3.75m Laerling beginner’s sailing vessel that has been kitted out with a Linux operating system and a control software suite that uses Java and C++.

The boat also features sensors that track position and speed over ground, speed through water, ultrasonic wind speed, and more. When a destination is set, the Roboat’s chain-driven motors adjust the mainsail, jib, rudder, and boom. In case its solar panels fail, the Roboat also comes with a methanol fuel cell for backup.

There are a number of applications for Roboat’s Technology including:

  • Intelligent Sensor Buoys: An autonomic sailing boat is completely energy autarkic and can therefore collect unlimited measured data from world’s lakes and seas. In other words this application would make possible that surveying and mapping as well as water ecological studies or recording of fishing resources would be rather cost-effective.
  • Safety on Sailing Boats: This technology can be implemented on sailing ships of any sizes. Similar to the ABS or the ESP of the car this Roboat-System can interfere in dangerous situations and help the skipper to get the ship under control again. The system can also detect when the skipper fell overboard and is able to retrieve him automatically and precisely.
  • CO2-neutral in Transportation of the Goods: Nowadays with the fuel getting more and more expensive and complying with Kyoto standards is getting more difficult, better alternatives for the transportation of the goods need to be sought. The sailing boats are environment-friendly but they require a rather high number of human resource. Here is where the Roboat-Technology comes into play with its autonomous attributes from calculating the optimal itinerary to independently executing the right manoeuvres.
  • Reconnaissance and Surveillance: A Roboat can be sent out to far reaches or dangerous regions. Due to its silent, pilotless and energy self-sufficient attributes the Roboat is a competitive and safe alternative for surveillance of smuggler-boats.
  • The Boat as Sailing Instructor: Recording of countless measured values per second makes it possible to analyse by hindsight every sailing maneuver.
  • Comfort on Board: The sailor can freely decide which board responsibilities are likely to be taken over and which to be transferred to the Roboat-System. This alternative of delegating the ship can be of great advantage for people with handicaps, injured, ill or exhausted skippers or ships with reduced crew.
  • Supply Vessel: Secluded regions with lower number of inhabitants for instance researching base camps on islands can be cost-effectively supplied by the robot sailing boats with equipment, medicine, food or correspondence.

Although there are other robotic sailboats around, the Roboat is clearly one of the best, winning the first World Robotic Sailing Championship earlier this year. You can see the Roboat in action here:

Photo Credit: Roboat

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