Hawaii stands at the forefront of a new technological revolution in the field of boat drones, states an Oct. 16 press release from the University of Hawaii. The release came emailed with plenty of full-color photos of a new experimental boat drone (sorry–”robotic platform”) that the university hopes will “support maritime missions in harbor and port environments.”
To be honest, our first thought upon seeing the above photo and reading the accompanying press release was something along the lines of, “At last! Someone has finally gotten around to building a boat drone that we can use to cruise the coast in front of big homes and take photos and/or video of all the big celebrities who live there and still lack the protections of the so-called ‘Steven Tyler Act,’ which had it not failed miserably in the most recent state legislative session, would have criminalized exactly that sort of behavior.”
But no. Turns out the new UH drone–the Unmanned Port Security Vessel (UPSV to its friends) is designed to “map the seafloor in high resolution, photograph critical infrastructure below and above the waterline, detect chemical leaks or spills, and relay real-time video–all at the same time,” according to the Oct. 16 UH press release. It’s a product of one of them “partnerships” in which the public university teams up with private enterprise–in this case, Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle.
The emphasis here (at least on the UH side of things) is clearly on innocuous missions like seafloor mapping and detecting chemical spills. See, the university–which put $300,000 into the project–is just trying to keep more molasses from Matson Navigation from spilling into Honolulu Harbor. And while this is a laudable goal (of course, getting Matson to pay attention when state inspectors spot molasses leaks might also do the trick), it’s not the totality of the new boat drone’s mission.
“We’re pleased to continue this relationship with the University of Hawaii and believe we can make great advances in maritime security by combining our strengths,” Battelle’s Maritime Systems GM Patricia Gruber said in the news release.
But hey! Building boat drones to handle “maritime security” also means “jobs!”
“As we move to make research one of the pillars of Hawaii’s economy, partnerships with companies like Battelle, one of the largest innovation companies in the nation, will create new opportunities to turn promising research into new companies and create jobs in our state,” said UH VP Vassilis Syrmos (who I hope was paid a bonus for each techno-utopian euphemism she was able to cram into a single sentence) in the Oct. 16 press release.
Photo courtesy University of Hawaii