Over the last five years, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Lab have been hard at work trying to create a fleet of autonomous boats. Now, it looks as though they have moved one step closer to achieving their goal with the unveiling of the “Roboat II,” an autonomous, modular ‘Roboat’.
The Roboat II isn’t just a glorified rowboat. The tiny autonomous robot features LiDAR, GPS, and inertial sensors which it uses to navigate around its surroundings. It also has four powerful propellers that allow it to move in any direction. However, the party piece of Roboat II is the fact that it is modular, meaning it can attach itself to other Roboat II’s to form one large vessel, which is then controlled by a main “leader” boat.
Take a look at the Roboat II in action below:
MIT recently tested the Roboat II in the canals of Amsterdam, where it was set free to autonomously navigate itself around and collect data for three consecutive hours. Researchers found that during this excursion, Roboat II had an error margin of fewer than 17 centimeters. Researchers are now looking to create an even larger version of the Roboat which would increase its capacity from two people up to six people.
Much like any autonomous vehicle, there are still issues that need to be ironed out. The team from MIT will now look at ways in which they can improve the Roboat’s ability to deal with unexpected disturbances, like changes in currents and waves. They’re also looking to improve the Roboat’s ability to identify certain objects and obstacles it comes across.
Picture: MIT CSAIL