NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — A robotic kayak is combing local waters – testing for pollution.
The idea was developed by researchers at the University of Rhode Island.
On Friday, Eyewitness News headed out on the water with researchers to get a firsthand look at how the kayak works.
“We are out here testing an autonomous, surface vessel, which is basically an autonomous kayak. So it has it’s own computer and batteries, and can drive around all by itself,” said Chris Roman, a professor at URI.
Using special software, Roman and engineer David Casagronde programmed the path of kayak before putting it in the water. So while they have to keep an eye on it, they don’t actually have to drive it.
But what is the purpose of the kayak?
“So we have a whole battery of sensors for water quality, acoustics that we can run around, and the kayak does a mission, comes back, we can look at all the data, plot it up, and learn something about the environment,” Roman said.
The kayak can read the temperature, salinity and concentration of many different pollutants, which can impact the health of fish and the ecosystem overall.
Past voyages of this kayak include pond surveys in Charlestown, and Roman said his motivation for future missions isn’t just about water pollution – but the kayak itself.
“As a roboticist, I am interested in making the kayak better. How do we get better, smarter algorithms, to go out there and use it and collect better and more interesting data,” he said.
Researchers say future projects for the kayak will include fresh and salt water ponds around the Ocean State – and drinking and salt water studies are on the horizon.