Solar-powered robot sailboat aims for world record

If you’ve never been on a sailboat, it might seem like the ultimate form of leisurely transportation: nothing but the waves, sunshine, and ocean breezes to speed you along your journey.

The reality is that a sail boat requires constant input from its human crew in order to travel in a safe, orderly manner. Without a crew to make adjustments to the sails and rudder, a lazy trip on the water could turn disastrous in a hurry.

But what if the boat could make these adjustments all on its own? A research team from the Austrian Society for Innovative Computer Sciences (INNOC) has developed a fully autonomous, unmanned sailing boat that aims to break the current record for longest journey without a crew.

Cleverly dubbed the “ASV Roboat,” the vessel will soon execute a multi-day research project in the Baltic Sea. During that time the boat will cover 150 nautical miles and remain on the high seas for up to 100 hours without interruption, and without a single human on board. 

If successful, this mission will break the current world record for unmanned sailing, which is 78.9 nautical miles, held by a research group from ENSTA Brest, of France.

During its record-breaking journey, the Roboat will use an underwater microphone to record the sounds of marine mammals to gather valuable information about migration routes, pairing sites and the animals’ communication behavior. The vessel’s onboard computer, which stores more than 100 measured values per second, is powered by solar energy.

“Because they are energy self-sufficient, in addition to marine biology, these solar energy powered robotic sailing boats can also be used for tsunami early warning systems, search operations, meteorological measurements and the recovery of oil spills,” said project manager, Roland Stelzer in a statement.

* Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling