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UL Leading The Way In Computer Controlled Watercraft

atchafalaya basin
Mario Tama/Getty Images

They now make cars that can parallel park themselves. They have robots that can go into buildings and diffuse bombs. Why couldn’t they make a watercraft that could drive itself across an inland waterway like the Atchafalaya Basin? It appears they can.

Yesterday, members of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Anaconda project took passengers along for a ride on a boat with no captain. In this case there was a pilot but he wasn’t steering the boat in the old fashioned way. He was driving with an iPad computer.

The Anaconda project came to be when Swiftships, a shipbuilder out of Morgan City took notice of UL’s success with the Cajunbot program. Cajunbot was a six wheeled vehicle with autonomous piloting system that was built some ten years ago as part of a university engineering competition.  Swiftships moved quickly to develop a partnership with the University to create a similar craft, except this one would operate on water.

Using cameras, lasers, GPS, and computers, the technology aboard the Anaconda senses water conditions, debris, logs, and other vessels in the area to operate smoothly and safely at speed in excess of 50 knots. The military applications of such a watercraft seem limitless.

Could the Anaconda be the prototype drone of the water? If yesterday’s test results are any indication we could have yet another great reason to be proud of UL’s academic achievements. We could also have a major new industry springing up just down highway 90 in Morgan City.

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