A robotic boat operated by a team from Shanghai Jiaotong University undergoes testing at the World Robot Sailing Championship.
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All summer, the small boat drifted steadily eastward across the churning North Atlantic until it neared the Irish coast, where it made history by becoming the first unmanned sailboat to cross the Atlantic. The SB Met, built by Norwegian company Offshore Sensing AS, reached the finish line of the Microtransat Challenge for robotic boats on Aug. 26, two and a half months after setting off from Newfoundland, according to preliminary data.More than 20 previous attempts by various teams to complete the Microtransat since it began in 2010 have ended in failure, with robot boats caught in fishing nets, retrieved by ships, or lost. Peddie said his biggest fear was that a passing boat would pick up the 2-meter-long, 60 kilogram vessel as it neared the finish.U.S. startup Saildrone is building a fleet of 7-meter-long "unmanned surface vehicles" that can spend up to 12 months gathering ocean data.Offshore Sensing has built 14 Sailbuoys, which have a surfboard-shaped deck covered in solar panels that power the onboard technology and a rigid trapezoidal sail mounted near the bow that propels the vessel.Peddie says robotic sailboats offer important advantages. Unlike drifting buoys, they can loiter in one place, and they're nimbler and cheaper than research vessels.Self-sailing boats operate on similar principles to self-driving cars.
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