Protei Sailboat Fights Oil Spills


The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has taught U.S. “hard lessons” in marine oil catastrophes and oil rigging. While trying to cover up oil spill mistakes, methods like chemical dispersants and manual cleaning up can make oil spills worse. Many oil skimming technologies currently in use by U.S. Coast Guard like boats fitted with skimming equipment and skimmers are able to collect only 3% of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, the men working on the operation face health hazards like exposure to cancerous toxicants. Also, the boats used were pollutive and expensive to operate.

The answer is an open source oil spill cleaning robot sailboat developed by Cesar Harada, an young engineer from MIT, Boston. Called Protei, it is an unmanned, autonomous and comparatively inexpensive robot that can be used as a potent means to clean the slick in the Gulf of Mexico while protecting the health of the safety workers. Protei can gobble up large oil slicks without the need of crew or night time crews. Furthermore, it also inherits the capability to operate applications for physical oceanography, exploration, supply ship and long range communications.

Protei’s uniqueness lies in its built which allows it to move upwind in a back and forth direction to expeditiously collect oil blankets. The boat can resist stormy conditions and its sails flatten automatically in windy conditions. It is able to go far into the sea plus the boat’s flexibility allows for minimal damage in case of impact with another sea vessel.

Protei is an open source software, so that local communities can rebuild the boat in case of an oil spill. This unique invention by Cesar Harada will hopefully help in oil spills at places like Niger Delta where a 30-year clean-up is causing environmental and health hazards for the local people.

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