Protei: Articulated, Backward Sailing Robots Clean Oil Spills

The Protei project aims to develop a robotic solution for oil-spill cleanup. [Cesar Harada] quit what he calls his dream job at MIT to work toward a solution to the ecological disasters that are oil spills. He had previously been working on Seaswarm, a swarm of robots that use conveyor belts of absorbent material to leech oil from seawater. But Protei doesn’t use legions of drones. It aims to use better design to improve the effectiveness of a small number of units.

The whole idea is well described in the video after the break. If a long trailing boom of absorbent material is towed in a serpentine pattern perpendicular to the flow, starting down current and moving upward, it can be quite effective at halting the spread of crude. Initial experiments have shown that a robotic vessel can do this efficiently with just a few improvements. First, to counteract the drag of the tail the rudder of the boat was moved to the bow. Secondly, the hull has been articulated as you can see above. This allows the robot to better utilize wind power to sail, making turns without losing the push of the wind.

The project is raising money through Kickstart as an open hardware project. Let’s hope this becomes a cheap and effective way to fix our costly drilling mishaps. [youtube=]

15 thoughts on “Protei: Articulated, Backward Sailing Robots Clean Oil Spills

  1. something that really irks me with the whole mini-robot fleet mentality which applies both here and with the miniature power generation cases is that there is a degree of maintenance that seems unachievable when dealing with such a huge number of ultimately fragile ‘bots.

  2. @M4CGYV3R They turned me off at open source. The only way this will ever go anywhere is if it’s picked up by a multi million/billion dollar company, and they won’t want a it opened so competition can copy it. People seem to think open source is godly and is the best thing in the world, it’s not.

  3. @Seshan: It’s less salaries to pay..good for executives bad for guy who has to pay rent off said salary..

    Oh I forgot ‘charge for support’ solves all these real problems in open source..

  4. The boat is interesting, but the serpentine boom dragging seems flawed to me: The boom will simply drift downcurrent at the same rate as the oil, so won’t actually intercept much of it (unlike the graphic at 0:45 suggests)

    Now, two of these pulling a boom by both ends and sailing upwind (by small zigzags) might have a chance

  5. @anti-fanboi

    “It drives down wages by reducing demand for paid software engineers & diluting the perceived value of their services.”

    That’s the argument. I don’t agree with it.

  6. @tylerturden

    I disagree also: the greed of a few DOES NOT out way the need of the many.

    Open Source always lifts the bar! One software system I produce/sell has an OSS compettitor, and that’s a good thing! My paid solution is way better, as it should be ;)

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