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Wave Of The Future: Robotic Sailboats Compete At California Maritime Academy

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(CBS) Don Ford
Don Ford joined KPIX 5 as a Multi-Media Journalist (MMJ) in 2011. He...
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VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — From around the world, five elite engineering teams have gathered at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, where they are racing robotic sailboats.

The hand-made sailboats think for themselves on how to navigate on the water.

“We have software built into a small little Linux computer on board that will basically tell the boat how to behave,” said Kristoffer Vik Hansen of the University of British Columbia.

Once in position, the radio link is turned off and the boat’s computer takes over, using custom code written by the students.

The better programmers design their software, the better these boats perform on the open water. Depending on conditions, the boat decides on its own when to change course, it’s completely autonomous.

On Tuesday, the team from Wales appeared to have some homework to do, while the U.S. Naval Academy team from Annapolis was doing better.

“We got second today,” said Beatrice Cayabaf of the Naval Academy team.

This isn’t just fun and games. The technology could be refined to use on oceangoing ships in the future, a future that these students will be shaping.

The competition continues all week, with the winner being crowned on Saturday.

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