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77 it makes sense to move these tasks to the water. Smart, autonomous, electric technologies such as those being incorporated into the Roboat are seen as key to easing that transition. Project overview The Roboat has been developed as a collaboration between scientists from MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (or AMS Institute). The latter is a research organisation that was commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam in 2014 to solve urban challenges using smart mobility technologies. The Roboat is the first project to be approved by the AMS board. “It’s a five-year r&d project, with the sole goal of creating a fully autonomous vessel specifically for the canals of Amsterdam,” explains Ynse Deinema, Roboat project coordinator at AMS Institute. “Historically, this city was once the centre of the naval industry for the Netherlands, and companies throughout the city sent and received items by boats, using the famous Grachtengordel of concentric canals. But these days they aren’t used commercially; mainly they’re just used for tourism. “There’s a great deal of capacity in the canal. With the Roboat we hope to tap this sadly ignored resource and alleviate the congestion and pollution on Amsterdam’s roads, which are now very close to being completely full with vehicles and bicycles as a result of the city’s non-stop growth.” Deinema adds that there are major advantages to having such systems operating autonomously, compared with simply setting up manned or remotely operated waste collection fleets or logistical delivery boats. For example, in addition to saving on operating costs compared with human boat operators, the use of sensors for persistent 360 º awareness is considered to be safer and more consistent for steering a boat through the canals. Also, autonomous boats can operate for longer, including early mornings and late nights when the canals are relatively empty. The Roboat could be used for transporting people as well, as an alternative to buses and rideshares. But as mentioned, the speed limits in the canals mean that travelling by bicycle in Amsterdam is much faster – in fact cycling is expected to remain the preferred form of travel – so the researchers are putting far more effort into the use-case for waste collection. AMS Institute and MIT envision a few variations on how the Roboat’s waste collection operation will eventually play out across each day of operation, depending on the different users who will adopt the system once the r&d is completed next year. Project progress At the time of writing, the project teams had fully tested a quarter-scale prototype of the Roboat (measuring 100 x 50 cm) and a half-scale model (200 x 100 cm) in both Amsterdam and Boston, with a full-scale, 4 x 2 m version being prepared for Amsterdam canal trials and demonstrations. “The hull has been built, and my colleagues and I are now working to install and calibrate the electronics,” Deinema says. “We’ve opted to make the first few prototypes out of laser-cut and welded aluminium, for its light weight and resistance to corrosion. We are also planning to launch the full-scale prototype later this year around the start of this autumn, then start optimising the autonomy and control systems on it.” Those electronics will be installed in a bay in the centre of the Roboat. They include an autopilot computer running ROS, a Lord Microstrain 3DM-GX5-25 inertial measurement unit, an Emlid Reach RS+ RTK-GNSS receiver, and motor controllers. The vehicle has a fully electric powertrain, in accordance with the legal requirement that all vessels in Amsterdam’s canals are zero-emissions by 2025. It has four fixed electric podded thrusters: two main forwards-pointing thrusters on the sides, from Torqeedo; and two side-facing thrusters (one at the bow and one at the stern) from Vetus. These and the onboard electronics are powered by a 48 V, 12 kWh lithium- polymer battery pack from Murata, which is installed in a keel for stability. It will enable up to 8 hours of operation between charges, given the boat’s slow operating speed. With all onboard systems installed, the Roboat will weigh about 1000 kg, and will be able to carry about the same in terms of cargo. Roboat | In operation Unmanned Systems Technology | April/May 2020 Quarter-scale (100 x 50 cm, pictured) and half- scale prototypes of the Roboat have completed testing; a full-scale prototype is nearly complete and will soon begin trials in Amsterdam