by Des Ryan
If you have plenty of time there's a potential boat which is simpler than a sailing boat, quieter than a sailing boat, has no chafing parts, zero emissions and can travel forever. Impossible? Not if Liquid Robotics Inc has anything to do with it - it's the wave-powered boat.
Wave power - the possibilities are endless
At the moment their wave-powered boats are robotic and used for ocean monitoring, but Liquid Robotics has a big imagination, and to make their dreams come true, they have hired a one-time astronaut, Ed Lu.
Lu has been on both the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Atlantis, but his new job is to find all the applications possible for their wave-powered boat.
In concept, if they can create these boats for people instead of having them robotic, then the possibilities are endless.
Innovators have been experimenting with wave-power for years, (See http://www.sail-world.com/index_d.cfm?nid=46140!Sail-World_story on crossing the Pacific) but Liquid Robotics is the company behind the Wave Glider robot, the first marine robot to use the ocean's wave energy to propel itself forward.
It's not exactly fast. Travelling at one to one and a half knots it would take a while to cross an ocean, but can travel for years on end, something that would appeal to most long-range cruising sailors.
As it exists now, the robotic boats also hold solar-powered sensor payloads that transmit data via satellite.
Lu told Fast Company that the onboard sensors can monitor pollution, oil spills, salinity levels, and even phytoplankton activity. 'We have monitoring stations everywhere on the ground, but we don't have such things in the ocean,' he says.
The Wave Glider robots have been used by a number of different organizations, including BP (for water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico), NOAA, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
Instead of selling the glider to these organizations, Liquid Robotics generally sells data services (i.e. selling water monitoring services to BP).
As part of his new role, Lu will help dream up new applications for the robot. But he realizes that he's just at the beginning of something that could change the world. 'If you think you understand all the various possibilities out there, then you have another think coming.'