Photo via US Navy
According to the US Navy, barnacles and biofilms can slow ships by an average of 10% due to added drag, which can add up to as much as a 40% increase in fuel consumption to counter that drag. But, an underwater robot with an adorable acronymed name - Hull BUG - that can clean Navy ships is a new hope for reducing fuel consumption.The Robotic Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool or Hull BUG is a new autonomous robot that can sense where a ship is and isn't clean, and spiff up besmirched spots. The robot's care can help keep barnacles, oysters and other biofilm from settling on ship hulls and therefore reduce drag and fuel consumption.
Underscoring the benefits of combining the Hull BUG with newly developed environmentally benign antifouling hull coatings, [ONR Program Officer Steve] McElvany estimates that "the Navy will save millions of dollars per year in fuel. Using less fuel also means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are really trying to look very far forward to get the ultimate solution."
Currently, the Navy spends an estimated $500 million annually in extra maintenance and fuel costs associated with biofouling. So a robot that cleans ships while in port - where the ships spend as much as 50% of their time - can go a long way in trimming those costs. And, it is a whole lot better than using toxic substances.