Fully autonomous and unmanned sailing boats will be racing across Galway Harbour from 9-13 September, when Galway City hosts the seventh World Robotic Sailing Championship (WRSC).
The boats, up to 2.5 metres in length, will compete over a series of short-distance races, navigation and autonomy challenges, such as accuracy, endurance, co-operation, obstacle avoidance, target tracking, and speed in different conditions.
Teams from Galway, Wales, the US, Finland, France, Portugal and Russia will participate in the event, which Ireland is hosting for the first time.
The WRSC also highlights the potential of robotic sailing, in terms of long-range and long-term autonomous wind-propelled, solar or wave-powered carbon-neutral devices, and how the devices can help monitor environmental, ecological, meteorological, hydrographic and oceanographic data, as well as be used in security, traffic monitoring, and assistance and rescue.
The weather factor
The co-chair of the WRSC, Dermot Tynan of Hewlett-Packard, Galway, spoke about the issues and manpower involved in building and sailing a robotic sailboat.
“The dependency on changing winds and sea conditions presents a considerable challenge for short and long-term route and stability planning, collision avoidance and boat control,” Tynan said.
“Building a robust and seaworthy autonomous sailing robot presents a truly complex and multi-disciplinary challenge for boat designers, naval architects, mechanical engineers, electronic and embedded systems engineers and computer scientists.”
The competition, originally designed for sailboats, also includes a motorboats category to bring together the scientific communities that work on different types of autonomous marine vehicles.