Next time you are sailing through the mid-night mist in Venice, don’t mistake that lifeless vessel floating lazily around for an abandoned ghost ship. It might just be a sailorless autonomous boat ferrying out heaps of garbage from the waterway-rich city, its surreal technology powered by a small group of academics working furiously hard at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT.
Going by MIT News, the researchers have come up with self-driving boats that can be mass made in a jiffy using a low-cost 3D printer. The autonomous boats, says MIT News, could serve cities rich in waterways, such as Amsterdam, Bangkok, and Venice, helping ease their road traffic.
“Imagine shifting some of infrastructure services that usually take place during the day on the road — deliveries, garbage management, waste management — to the middle of the night, on the water, using a fleet of autonomous boats,” said Daniela Rus, co-author of the paper that describes the project, in the report.
Rus also said that the project was looking at making the autonomous boats so advanced that they could ease up congestion in canals as well.
Further, Rus said that the boats, typically with four-by-two-metre hulls, will come fitted with sensors, microcontrollers, GPS modules, and other hardware that can be taught to self-assemble or attach itself to platforms such as bridges, food markets or concert stages.
“Again, some of the activities that are usually taking place on land can be done on a temporary basis on the water,” said Rus in the report.
Researchers also said that the boats can be attached with environmental sensors to find out about water composition.
In order to make the boat via 3D printing, researchers printed 16 parts and joined them together. The actual printing process took 60 hours. Once the printing and joining is done, the boat can be fitted with all sensors.
The team of researchers had also developed a way in which the boat could track its position using GPS and algorithms. Currently, the boat is being tested in a swimming pool and in the Charles River, Massachusetts.