Researchers in a joint venture between MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions have been working on a fleet of autonomous reconfigurable boats. These “roboats” are being developed with the goal of using them on Amsterdam’s 165 canals for tasks such as transportation and collecting trash, and they could even self-assemble into ad hoc platforms that can be employed as stages, marketplaces, or whatever else is needed at the time.
The project has been in the works for several years, with a prototype capable of forward, backward, and side-to-side movement deployed in 2016, as well as a more agile one-quarter scale version designed in 2018. Finally, this June, researchers created an autonomous mechanism that allows several boats to latch on to one another in different configurations.
This ability has been demonstrated in a pool and computer simulations, where boats were able to transform themselves into lines, rectangles and “L” shapes. Boats are divided into coordinators and workers, with the entire team forming a connected-vessel platform, or CVP. All boats will feature four propellers for navigation, latching systems, and basic sensors, and the coordinator will use more advanced electronics like a GPS unit and IMU for navigation.
Researchers plant to use roboats as a sort of dynamic bridge — or automated ferry system — across a 60 meter canal in Amsterdam in roughly a year.
[h/t: MIT News]