Open Hardware Oil Spill Cleaning Robot Is Ready to Set Sail

August 30, 2011 | 14:26
Open Hardware Oil Spill Cleaning Robot Is Ready to Set Sail
Open Hardware Oil Spill Cleaning Robot Is Ready to Set Sail
An autonomous wind powered robot that collects spilled oil from the ocean makes its grand debut on the World Port Days in Rotterdam on September 2. The open source, open hardware and crowd-funded project was realized in little over a year.

Protei is the name of the wind-driven drone that sails the oceans unmanned. Towing a long oil-absorbent tail it collects oil from the sea’s the surface. Because oil travels downwind from the source of the spill, Protei is designed to travel upwind. Intercepting the polluting mass in its downstream course.

The project is the brainchild of French-Japanese artist Cesar Harada who envisioned Protei as a fleet of drones that can be deployed after an oil spill. The idea came to him after witnessing the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil skimming vessels that were deployed in the Gulf after the spill encountered several problems. The people manning the boats were exposed to the toxic environment, they were dependent on favorable weather conditions and the heavy machinery driving the boats was itself a source of pollution. So Harada wanted to built a swarm of oil collecting drones that would be self-righting even in heavy weather and powered solely by wind.

It soon became clear that he could not pull it off alone. So he send out a call for help. Before long an international army of volunteers was picking up the project. Engineers and sailors offered their skills to help improve the prototype. Through the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter $33,795 was raised and the Dutch Institute for Unstable Media V2_ offered to produce the project. Over the summer the host of international volunteers have been working on the prototype in a warehouse made available by V2_. Now, little over a year after its conception, the first full-scale Protei will be revealed on the World Port Days in Rotterdam.

Protei is an open hardware robot. Meaning that the blueprint is available for free for everybody. People can build there own Protei and contribute improvements to the design. The robot is constructed from cheap materials and easy to build. So that in case of an oil spill, local communities can quickly build a Protei drone swarm to help clean their waters.

Photo: Protei prototype. Courtesy Protei.org
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