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We are developing Protei: a low-cost open-source oil collecting robot that autonomously sails upwind, intercepting oil sheens going downwind. Protei combines conventional technologies in an innovative design that we can implement in the short term to address timely environmental crisis such as the BP Oil Spill, cleaning the ocean gyre garbage patches or performing ocean research. We need your help to build our next prototype of Protei - the first articulated sailing boat that can tack upwind pulling a long heavy payload and initiating a revolutionary family in ocean robotics.
Current Oil spill skimming technology was able to collect only 3% of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The health of remediation workers was compromised by exposure to cancerous toxic chemicals, skimming boats themselves contributed to pollution and were expensive to power, operations were constrained by daily weather conditions and were limited by proximity to the coast. In contrast, Protei aims to be : unmanned, unrestrained by human biological needs; green and affordable; self-righting and therefore operable even in hurricane conditions; semi-autonomous, so that far offshore, many Protei would be able to intelligently and continuously swarm. Observations and ideas from testing Spilled oil moves downwind from its source following surface currents. Traditional oil skimmers pull oil-absorbent booms and trace random linear paths in a sea of oil. But a better way to capture this oil is to sail upwind, intercepting the oil sheens traveling downwind. Protei harnesses the wind in order to power an unmanned sailing drone, pulling a long oil-absorbent ‘tail’ upwind. A fleet of many Protei will work automatically as a swarm, or be remotely controlled by coastal residents and on-line gamers.