Think of it as an autonomous, swarming, photovoltaic legion of seagoing Roombas (or don't, if you're easily upset). The Seaswarm project at MIT takes a thin, hydrophobic material and drags it behind a robot outfitted with GPS and WiFi for determining its location and communicating within a swarm. When deployed, the group finds the outer edges of an oil spill, and works its way into the center, coordinating the cleanup with minimal human interference. The material itself can take on twenty times its weight in oil. And yes, the whole thing is re-usable. According to researchers, 5,000 of these relatively low cost devices could have cleaned up the BP oil disaster in a month -- which is more than we can say for Kevin Costner! See it in action after the break.
MIT Seaswarm autonomous robots coming soon to an oil spill near you (video)
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