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Amsterdam plans autonomous bridge-building boats

Roboat main

A major research programme to investigate autonomous boats in city waterways has started.

Called roboats, the vision for these vessels is that they could be used to form floating structures, but also carry out routine tasks such as water testing.

The research is being undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), including a consortium of researchers from Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research. The five-year programme has a budget of £21.5M and is based in Amsterdam.

“Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” said MIT professor and principal investigator in the roboat programme Carlo Ratti. “But also think of dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure, like on-demand bridges and stages, that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours.”

Roboat 1

Roboat

Source: AMS Institute

AMS Institute’s scientific director and professor Arjan van Timmeren added: “Roboat offers enormous possibilities as we’ll also be exploring environmental sensing. We could, for instance, do further research on underwater robots that can detect diseases at an early stage or use roboats to rid the canals from floating waste and find a more efficient way to handle the 12,000 bicycles that end up in the city’s canals each year.”

The first prototypes of roboat will be visible in Amsterdam in next year.

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