CMU Researchers Develop New Watercraft and New Business for Environmental Monitoring
Platypus is working to commercialize the technology which can run on a smartphone
Platypus, a robotics company founded by six researchers at the CMU Robotics Institute, has developed a fully autonomous watercraft that they hope to introduce to various uses in environmental monitoring.
“It’s a tool to do what you want,” said Balajee Kannan, project scientist at CMU and chief financial officer at Platypus.
The boats consist of a vacuum Styrofoam hull outfitted with underwater sensors, a fan assembly for propulsion, electronics compartment for a microprocessor that gather the sensor data, and an enclosure to house the Android-based smartphone that runs the whole thing.
The company, which formed over the summer, is working on commercializing the technology. The boats can collect information on depth, temperature, Ph levels, dissolved oxygen and electrical conductivity. The last one is typically a surrogate for testing total dissolved solids.
On this recent Friday the team’s controls expert, and systems and software engineer at the Robotics Institute, Abhinav Valada was testing the system’s algorithms that are used to detect gradient in the water. If there was effluent in the water the boats would be able to see the channels in the water and determine where the effluent came from, he said.
Sure, people can do some of this type of testing, he said, “(but) this boat can do the same and get it faster.”