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76 T he utility of autonomous systems for carrying out repeatable and uncomplicated tasks has been drawing technology companies to shipping and logistics operations for many years now. In the maritime realm, most of the focus has been on automating large freighters for transporting goods along coasts or major rivers, perhaps best exemplified by projects such as Kongsberg’s Yara Birkeland container vessel. By contrast, the world’s urban waterways have been relatively overlooked in terms of commercial unmanned solutions being developed for them. However, one USV in particular has been created as a result of researchers seeing the potential for moving key logistical and sanitary duties away from congested roads and onto canals. The Roboat is a barge-like, multi- purpose USV that is being developed to collect waste and transport construction materials in the centre of Amsterdam. As a result, its technological capabilities are less important than the need for it to keep to the maximum legal speed on the city’s canals, which tends to be about 6 kph. Almost 23 million kilos of household waste alone is produced in Amsterdam’s city centre each year; that’s aside from any commercial, industrial or green waste. It is transported mainly by heavy, diesel-powered trucks on congested city roads, which not only worsen traffic and pollution but can damage quay walls and pavements, causing further disruption, safety risks, and costing taxpayers’ money to fix. For Amsterdam to realise its ambition of becoming a leading eco-friendly city, Amsterdam is ideally suited to moving waste collection off its road network and onto its canals. Rory Jackson reports on how this USV aims to do that Water power April/May 2020 | Unmanned Systems Technology The Roboat is being developed for a range of uses, with autonomous waste collection being touted strongly as an alternative to road-based refuse handling (Images courtesy of AMS Institute)