The human factor is a bottleneck in standard oil spill cleaning operations; human resources are limited and cleaning oil spills means being exposed to toxic pollutants. Cleaning oil spills could happen much more efficient and safe when vessels would operate autonomously. Protei is a fleet of autonomous oil spill collection vessels. Each Protei vessel consists of a sailing propulsion head and a long oil absorbing tail. Protei is based on the simple premise that because an oil spill moves and spreads down winds, currents and waves, the most efficient way to clean it is to use these same natural forces to sail upwind while capturing oil. To collect the oil, Protei is equipped with a conventional oil absorbing boom as tail. This boom tail can take up to 25 times its own mass in oil and can be reused many times. A Protei fleet can reach far remote places to collect a spread oil spill and can operate in storms and difficult waters due the inflatable, self-righting and collision-safe design of the individual vessels. This design is extremely affordable, and distributed as Open Hardware so anyone can contribute, use, modify and commercialize it. All over the world oil and various other pollutants are spilled in our waters constantly, and every spill’s context is different from another. Therefore, Protei is not only a powerful water cleaning design, but also adjustable to any local condition by anyone due to its Open Hardware philosophy. Protei introduces several technical innovations in ocean robotics since it is an entirely articulated vessel, that can sail upwind bending so it catches the wind from both sides of the vessel. The development of Protei is experimental, iterative and fun.
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