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Oil spills destroy wildlife, human health, and have serious effects on the economy. Despite billions of dollars being invested into new technologies for the management of oil spills, they are still incredibly difficult to contain and treat. Oil from a spill drifts downwind, following surface currents. One technique to manage this drift is to use skimmers – repurposed fishing boats that contain and absorb the oil. Despite being mobilised in their hundreds, skimmers absorb a relatively small proportion of oil from a spill. Protei have come up with a way to optimise the process using existing technology and an innovative open source design. Protei_002 is a prototype for a fleet of low-cost, articulated, DIY, semi- autonomous oil-collecting sailboats. The full-sized boat pulls a sorbent boom, which absorbs oil off the top of water near spill sites. It is the first sailboat that can catch winds from both sides and can therefore sail upwind and intercept the oil sheens as they travel downwind. It can be controlled remotely and so does not endanger the health of operators. It can travel long distances from shore, work continuously during the day or night, and is much cheaper than existing skimming technologies. It is open source, making it possible for individuals to tailor the design to different functions, and to collaborate on its development.

PROTEI_002 Interview