Autonomous ‘Roboats’ In Amsterdam Will Transport Trash And Carry People

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The canals of Amsterdam have always been around, much before the pollution-spewing vehicles started speeding down its narrow roads.  These beautiful waterways measure 60 miles (100 kilometers) and have become the testing ground of futuristic vehicles called Roboats.

A quarter of the surface area of Amsterdam is water and 165 canals flow alongside busy streets. And autonomous boats can transform the way waste is collected and also transport goods and people.

These totally autonomous have been designed to both collect rubbish and transport passengers, all without a human manning the wheel of the dual-purpose machine. The cutting-edge technology has been designed to be relevant even in the complex environment of a modern port as numerous boats and ships pass each other in multiple piers and quays.

Autonomous systems can play a leading role to improve the safety of autonomous systems. It could be conveniently turned into an efficient operation capable of performing 24/7. A recent demonstration demonstrated the level of operational efficiency of the Roboats.

Roboats Can Play Multiple Roles In The Canals Of Amsterdam

Stephan van Dijk of the Advanced Metropolitan Solutions in Amsterdam said that the technology was relevant even in complex situations. Dijk is the director of innovation at the institute which is collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a 5-year research project.

An electric boat measuring a modest 4 meters sailed past a life-size replica of a three-mast ship of 18th century Amsterdam. It amply demonstrated the port’s rich shipping tradition and also the automated future. The Roboats can maneuver deftly through dense shipping traffic in the canals of Amsterdam, which are choc-a-bloc with canal cruises and private boats.

The Roboats are equipped with orange propellers. An electric battery powers the 4 thrusters. They move at a speed of 4 miles per hour. Depending on the cargo load and battery type, they and can run at a stretch for 12 to 24 hours.

Read: World’s First Zero-Emission Ship To Set Sail With No Crew Onboard!

An onboard computer remotely steers the Roboats. Data captured by the sensors and cameras that scan the area around the boats are processed. The computer can detect and identify both moving and stationary objects. The modular design of the vessels enables them to be easily adapted for different purposes, capable of carrying both people and cargo.

The Roboats Should Be Ready In 3 To 4 Years

Perfecting the self-steering technology will take time. Developers are hopeful that they will have perfected the technology in 3-4 years. They want to be doubly sure that the roboats can navigate the complexity of the canals.


Though the autonomy of the Roboats has been established. But the developers want to make sure that the boats can handle any kind of unpredictable situation that they will encounter in the canal.

Sensors will also measure phytoplankton dynamics within the canals. It will also measure the concentration of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, a lot of which are carcinogenic.  

There are other legislative barriers and privacy concerns that will have to be addressed before the Roboats are ready to ply the canals of Amsterdam on their own.

The operational team has also mapped the canals of Amsterdam and improved control and navigation algorithms

The developers have ensured that data from scanners and cameras do not intrude into the privacy of people in the vicinity. Dijk said that the boat sources data from scanners and cameras that will not between people walking on the roads along the canal. That ensures the privacy of people in the vicinity.

Read: Rolloe: Bicycle Wheels Which Filter The Air

The developers of Roboat hope to use the boats as an alternate mode of transport to reach the museums in Amsterdam. By strategically linking the boat tours with the museum visits, they hope to provide an innovative experience for tourists visiting Amsterdam.

The developers said that they were closely working with the legislators and the ministries to sort out any legal hurdles before the Roboats become fully operational.

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