The boat is more than just an instrument of transportation: It’s also a living organism.
Its cells make the cells that power the electronics on its onboard computer, which communicates with a range of other onboard devices, and in turn, controls how it behaves in a wide range of environmental conditions.
It’s the most complex computer in the world, and it’s a marvel of engineering.
“If you had a boat that was just sitting there, it would be completely unusable,” says Chris Kostak, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Washington who was not involved in the work.
“The boat is so complex, you have to be very careful about what you do to it.”
Kostark is a member of a team of researchers at the UW who have created the world’s first battery-powered boat.
They’ve built the “bionic” boat using a battery made from carbon nanotubes and a ceramic-based insulator.
Its first major test was at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in California, where it ran into a 10-foot-long whale.
But Kostanki said that wasn’t the first time the team had seen something go sideways.
“We’ve been in a lot of situations where you can’t tell it’s going to go down because you don’t know what’s going on,” he says.
Kostik has designed a way to monitor the boat’s internal workings.
He’s developed software that can simulate how the battery might degrade over time, and he’s tested the boat on a range and several different environments.
But in the end, the team decided to build a boat with more than its fair share of flaws.
“There are a lot more things that can go wrong than what we could detect,” Kostack says.
He says he hopes the team can eventually make a boat like that smaller, faster, and lighter, but he thinks it’ll take time.
The team has spent the past few years building the boat from the ground up, working with engineers to develop software and building prototypes.
Now they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 to get the project to the finish line.
The project is aiming to have the boat ready for commercial use by 2020, but Kostk says they have a lot left to do before then.
The boat has already been tested on a test platform at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia, where Kostike says they’re hoping to put it in a container ship that will carry it to a dock for repair.
It also has a prototype in the works that will be put into sea trials next year.
Kastak says they plan to test the boat in different water conditions to see how it performs in the water.
He and his team are also trying to develop the software so that it can run in multiple environments.
“One of the things that is very important is that we can be in all these different environments with different weather conditions,” Kastack says, noting that this could be particularly important in the future.
But the biggest challenge for Kostakis team is that it’s hard to predict exactly what will happen to the boat when it gets out of the water, he says, especially if a boat’s batteries are damaged.
“In order to keep it going, we have to have an understanding of how the boat is going to degrade over the long term, and that’s a pretty big hurdle,” Kothak says.
That knowledge, he hopes, will be helpful in designing better batteries for future boats.
Kestak says that with enough funding, he can also work on developing an even more powerful version of the boat.
He hopes that by 2020 he’ll be able to build an even larger version that will make it into a larger vessel.
The funding campaign is raising funds for the boat to go to sea.
The research is funded in part by the Navy and the National Science Foundation.
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