Automating Boat Cleaning

Automation is nothing new, but it’s definitely on the rise. And one of the newest types of robots is the HullSkater, a robot that cleans the bottoms of boats. Boat hulls get fouled with bacteria, seaweed, shellfish, and other organisms.

The consequences can be significant. For one thing, fouling can lead to drag, and that leads to a drop in energy efficiency. Fouled boats use more fuel and cause more emissions. The difference can be in the double digits.

For another thing, the sea creatures that catch a ride on a boat hull can end up in new environments where they are invasive species. This can lead to serious environmental effects.

Ships usually get cleaned in dry dock. They’re likely to get cleaned at sea just about twice a year, and the job is a dirty and dangerous one. Divers have to go underwater and scrape barnacles and other undersea gunk from the ship.

Enter the HullSkater

Reminiscent of a robot pool cleaner, or even a very specialized Roomba, the HullSkater is kept on board at all times. When the ship is stationary, it can be attached to the hull with its four magnetic wheels. It trundles around the surface of the hull, cleaning as it goes. In a few hours or a day at most — depending on the size of the ship — it has removed all the flotsam and jetsam and gotten the ship cleaned up for better performance.

The HullSkater is a step up from typical robot cleaners, though. It’s supervised by a remote operator over a phone line, and it requires nothing from the ship’s crew once it’s in place. Used regularly, it can preemptively clean ships so that they never get fouled. This can save as much as $800,000 a year in fuel and other costs, according to the makers.

Just another helpful robot

Automation improves human lives. It relies on motion control systems, and we believe that Rexroth creates the best motion control systems on the planet. If you need support with your electric Rexroth systems, contact us for immediate assistance.

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