Soon robot boats won’t
just know the Rules of the
Road, they’ll also be able
to predict other boaters’
overloaded fishing boat near the channel. The robot, oblivious, would have sped by and risked swamping the boat with its
wake. It was not a problem with the rules of the road, but with
Asimov’s first law.
Hansen thinks the future of unmanned craft lies, ironically,
with human controllers. Not onboard, but in a room somewhere,
watching a set of monitors, waiting for a boat to call in with a
problem. Hansen says we’re heading into a world where the
robot knows the probabilities that certain things will happen,
and can learn from experience. “Some very interesting philosophical directions take off from that,” he says.
They’re Saving Fuel With An Add-On Sail
Visit our “Innovators” feature online to see how.
AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY BOTTOM
PAINT? CAN IT BE DONE?
Luritek has patented an environmentally friendly two-part epoxy
bottom paint, Eco-Clad, that claims to release the lowest amount
of biocide into the water, while lasting two years in fresh and saltwaters. Based on bio-mimicry (see page 14), using models in nature
to solve human problems, the coating mimics how fish create a film
that repels marine growth. Similarly, Eco-Clad creates a bio-film that
attracts microbes that repel barnacles. This hard coating uses only a
small amount of metallic copper, less than traditional paints. Luritek
also claims it doesn’t harm marine life in the water column. More
good news: This paint can be applied by brush, roller, or spray; only
needs one coat; and with proper prep and primer can be used over
most common bottom paints.
PHOTO: MIC JULIEN, COMMON WEALTH SCIENTIFIC AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH ORGANIZATION, W W W.BUGWOOD.ORG
SWIM LIKE A … FERN? These plants shed water, giving new meaning to the term “hair coat”
FERNS HATE WATER. Sort of. Salvinia molesta
(or giant salvinia, or kariba weed) is an aquatic
plant native to Brazil. It traps air on its leaves,
keeping it there for weeks at a time to form
a barrier between itself and the surrounding
water. Researchers at the University of Bonn, in
Germany, recently uncovered the fern’s secret. Its
leaves have tiny hydrophobic hairs, which keep
water away from them. It’s possible to create
hydrophobic materials, modeled on nature; but
according to the university, the effect doesn’t last
in moving water.
TAKE YOUR “GREEN’ MARINE
PRODUCT IDEA TO THE NEXT LEVEL
The annual West Marine Green Product of
the Year competition is free and open to
individuals, manufacturers, distributors, and/
or inventors of boating products that promote sustainable innovation. Entries
accepted until November 23. For info,
The Boatiest Colleges
If a career in marine technology interests you or a family member, check out
our extensive list of the best colleges
and technical programs in the country.