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article imageAmsterdam prepares fleet of 'roboats' to collect garbage and more

By Tim Sandle     Jun 8, 2019 in Technology
Amsterdam - Technologists are developing a fleet of 'roboats' to operate along the canals of Amsterdam. Such boats could collect garbage or self-assemble into floating structures, signalling the future of transportation in waterway-rich cities.
A key development is with technology, which has come from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., that permits the autonomous boats to target and latch onto each other. In trials, scientists have provided new capabilities to their fleet of robotic boats that allows the boats to target and clasp onto each other. Furthermore if the boats fail the first time the robotics will keep on trying until connection is achieved.
Canals are important for the Dutch city in terms of transportation and tourism, around one quarter of Amsterdam’s surface area is water, with 165 canals winding alongside busy city streets and passing under 1,281 bridges. The total length of these canals is 50 kilometers, which is about 31 miles.
In order to harness the advantages of automation, MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions have begun working on a “Roboat” project. The goal is to develop the world's first fleet of autonomous floating vessels. This re-imagining of the waterways would harness the autonomous platforms so they can combine together to construct floating bridges and stages; plus carry out useful functions like collecting waste, delivering goods, and transporting people. At the same time the roboats will collecting data about the city, helping with a smart city project.
The project is going well. Researchers have already tested a roboat prototype which has cruised along Amsterdam’s canals, and be shown to be capable of moving forward, backward, and laterally along a preprogrammed path.
Thinking of future economics and mass roll-out of the roboats, the team have also designed low-cost, 3-D-printed, one-quarter scale versions of the boat. These are rectangular 4-by-2-meter hulls equipped with sensors, microcontrollers, GPS modules, and other hardware.
The latest development sees the roboat units being able to identify and connect to docking stations. Through the use of control algorithms, software can guide the roboats to the target so they can automatically connect to a customized latching mechanism with great precision.
It would seem that roboats will indeed soon be taking over Amsterdam's vast canal network.
More about Amsterdam, roboboats, Robotics
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