The Times of London reports that seven robotic craft will compete in a race across the Atlantic Ocean in October 2008. One of them, 'Pinta the robot sailing boat,' has been designed at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK. Pinta is expected to sail for three months at a maximum speed of four knots (about 4.6 mph or 7.4 kilometers per hour). Its designers hope the Pinta will become the first robot to cross an ocean using only wind power. This 150-kilogram sailing robot costs only £2,500 (US $4,900 or €3,200). The transatlantic race will start between September 29 and October 5, 2008 from Viana do Castelo, Portugal. The winner will be the first boat to reach a finishing line between the Northern tip of St. Lucia and the Southern tip of Martinique in the Caribbean. But read more...
You can see above Beagle B, the previous sailing robot developed at Aberystwyth University. It had a length of 3.65 meters, weighed 280 kg, and was built for a cost of £40,000 (about US $78K or €50K). (Credit: Aberystwyth University). Here is a link to additional details about this sailing robot.
These sailing robots have been designed at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK, by Mark Neal, Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and member of the Intelligent Robotics Group. For more information about what he does, you can read two pages about Biologically Inspired Robotics and
a previous autonomous sailing robot.
Here is a quote from Mark Neal about these sailing robots. "This is the first time anybody has attempted to sail across any ocean with an automated boat. The big issue in robotics at the moment is longevity and flexibility in a complicated environment. Something that can survive for two to three months completely unassisted while doing something interesting is a major challenge. If it does get there I will be seriously cheerful. It will open up all the oceans to environmental monitoring by robots."
In fact, and if the robots finish the race, the autonomous boats used in this Microtransat Challenge could help scientists to collect data about climate change and the oceans. "Sensors would be able to measure the carbon dioxide content of the water, chlorophyl content, pollution, air pressure, air and sea temperatures, and wind speed. The data gathered would provide invaluable information to scientists, and events such as plankton blooms and oil spills could be tracked by the robots to monitor their progress. Scientists are able to gather such information already but the robots would offer a much cheaper and more flexible option. And because no one is on board it would be easier to operate them in dangerous conditions."
Here are some links to follow if you want to learn more about this transatlantic robotic race.
Sources: Lewis Smith, The Times, UK, May 10, 2008; and various websites
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