Researchers from MIT have designed a fleet of autonomous boats that offer high maneuverability and precise control.
These boats can be 3-D printed using low-cost hardware and materials, and could serve as models for future self-assembling, driver-less water taxis transporting people and goods from place to place.
The boats could be used to taxi people around and to deliver goods, easing street traffic. In the future, the researchers also envision the driverless boats being adapted to perform city services overnight, instead of during busy daylight hours, further reducing congestion on both roads and canals.
Moreover, the boats — rectangular 4-by-2-meter hulls equipped with sensors, microcontrollers, GPS modules, and other hardware — could be programmed to self-assemble into floating bridges, concert stages, platforms for food markets, and other structures in a matter of hours.
The boats could also be equipped with environmental sensors to monitor a city’s waters and gain insight into urban and human health.
To make the boats, the researchers 3-D-printed a rectangular hull with a commercial printer, producing 16 separate sections that were spliced together. Printing took around 60 hours. The completed hull was then sealed by adhering several layers of fiberglass.
The boat is a rectangular shape, instead of the traditional kayak or catamaran shapes, to allow the vessel to move sideways and to attach itself to other boats when assembling other structures.