Datum 2021-04-12
Artikeltyp News

Autonomous sailing boats to replace our present cargo vessels?

This article was written before our official name change on January 1, 2022 from Mälardalen University (MDH) to Mälardalen University (MDU).

In the student project AutoSail, students and researchers at MDH are working side by side on developing an autonomous sailing boat.
– If we can eventually replace the cargo vessels on the Atlantic with autonomous, self-propelling sailing boats powered by sustainable energy, we can gain enormous environmental benefits, says Mikael Ekström, Professor of Robotics and Project Manager at MDH.

Projektet AutoSail genomförs tillsammans med University of Antioquia, i Colombia och Technological University of Panama, där lärosätena ansvarar för olika delar i utvecklingen av båten. Tanken är att båten ska delta i tävlingen World Robotic Sailing Championship (WRSC) vintern 2021/2022.

The AutoSail project is being conducted together with the University of Antioquia in Colombia, and the Technological University of Panama, where these HEIs are in charge of different parts of development of the boat. The idea is that the boat will take part in the World Robotic Sailing Championship (WRSC) competition in the winter of 2021/2022.

− The boat that is to compete in the WRSC is being built by the university in Panama; the university in Colombia is focusing on AI for the tactics, and MDH’s task is to develop the system that is to steer it. The plan is that it will eventually be powered by solar energy, says Mikael Ekström, Professor of Robotics and Project Manager at MDH.

And sustainable energy solutions, such as solar energy, are a prerequisite for reduced impact on the climate. The cargo vessels crossing the Atlantic on a daily basis have a great environmental impact. By finding alternative methods for transport, such as autonomous sailing boats, the environmental benefits for the oceans, the environment and climate could be considerable.

Three HEIs – one race

The 12 students who have been working on the project at MDH come from three different programmes: the M.Sc. Engineering programmes in Robotics and in Dependable Aerospace Systems, and also the Master’s programme in Intelligent Embedded Systems. Since the competition boat is being designed in Panama, the students at MDH have used a smaller model to be able to test the system. To get the boat to be able to sail by itself, the students have been working with both hard- and software.
− So far we’ve succeeded in getting the boat to sail by itself on a course that we determine. It can take in information itself about for example wind conditions and distances, and then calculate and carry out the route, says Simon Monie, who is a student and the Project Manager of AutoSail.

The student project is part of an internationalisation project that is funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT).

Global goals for sustainability

At MDH research is carried out that is linked to all the UN’s global goals for sustainable development. AutoSail can be linked to the goals that deal with sustainable energy for all, combating climate change, sustainable industry, innovations and infrastructure, as well as the oceans, seas and marine resources.


Research for the global goals for sustainability

This is how MDH work with the sustainable development goals

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