Barnacles might seem to be a traditional, almost quaint accoutrement of sea-going vessels, but they’re actually a serious problem. The buildup of marine organisms on a ship’s hull, known as biofouling, can reduce its speed by up to 10 percent. To compensate for the drag, the ship may have to use as much as 40 percent more fuel. Ships have to be lifted into drydock for the removal of barnacles, and sometimes toxic hull coatings are used to prevent them from colonizing. Hopefully, a new innovation may make both of those approaches unnecessary – it’s an autonomous hull-cleaning robot.
The Robotic Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool, or Hull BUG, is being developed by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and SeaRobotics. Just a few days ago, we told you about another one of ONR’s projects, for generating electricity from mud.