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This 'penguin' finds oil slicks fast
June 25, 2019 | 2:26 PM
by Times News Service
 
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Muscat: A group of young Omani engineers has invented a marine robot that detects oil pollution in the sea within six hours.

Five Sultan Qaboos University graduates, studying mechatronics, invented the robot to cut down on the time it takes to locate oil slicks at sea.

The team called their robot MCTE Penguin.

What makes MCTE Penguin special is that it can discover oil pollution within six hours. Currently, it can take as long as two days via conventional methods.



“Efforts to remove oil pollution in the sea can take up to two days, approximately, which is long enough to allow the oil spot to spread widely in the sea,” according to Waleed Al Mawali, iLab CEO.

The team recently won an Upgrade competition with their invention. Al Mawali added: “We just wanted to know whether the project can work in the business field or not.”



According to Al Mawali, the prototype of the Penguin consists of two hulls to ensure the robot’s balance in the sea, as well as two propellers to steer and navigate. MCTE Penguin is one metre long and 90 centimetres wide.

When the robot is in the sea, an underwater sensor guides the boat and collects samples of oil polluted water. When MCTE Penguin was in the manufacturing process, the team encountered some challenges.

Al Mawali said: “At the beginning, we wanted to buy a marine robot from the international market, but we could not afford the price. Then we wanted to purchase a wave glider (a mobile data-gathering platform) but we found out that it costs nearly $57,000 which was also not affordable.”

Eventually, the team decided to manufacture MCTE Penguin by themselves. They read different research papers on marine technology to get sufficient information. Two weeks ago, Oman Technology Fund (OTF) offered iLab company financial support.

Addressing investors and businessmen in Oman, Al Mawali said: “There is a lack of companies that are specialised in marine technology and this is unfortunate because Oman’s coastline is 3,165 km long.”

The friends then decided to launch iLab Company, a specialised company in marine technology.

Al Mawali said: “By 2025, you can expect to see MCTE Penguin robots in Oman.”

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