DETROIT – Racing sailboats is a niche sport, but it’s popular here in the Great Lakes state.
A new technology -- developed locally in the Motor City -- is a finalist for the World Sailing 11th Hour Racing Sustainability Award.
When you think of drones, you probably look up at the sky -- but what about underwater? Several local sailboat enthusiasts wanted to reduce the environmental impact of the sport and came up with a new technology that has them in the running for a big prize.
“When we were selected, it was a pretty powerful moment for the whole team,” said Kevin Morin.
Morin, along with 10 others, invented the MarkSetBot -- a done that hovers in the water and acts as a marker during sailboat races.
“You decide where you want it to stay in a body of water, you drag it on the phone or on the tablet and then it goes there and it hovers virtually without anchoring,” Morin said.
Historically, a boat is typically used as a marker, but the boat burns fuel and their anchors can disrupt ecosystems below.
“We needed some way to set marks and so we had to make compromises, and they weren’t good compromises,” Morin said. “So we came up with something better.”
The MarkSetBot was developed right here in downtown Detroit.
“Detroit is clearly an engineering city, and as we bring more and more tech in, this is really just a merging of what we’ve always been good at, right?” Morin said. “It’s not an automobile, but it’s a machine that needs to do a specific job -- it’s kind of in our wheelhouse.”
The first bot was developed in 2015 and the team started selling them two years later for about $7,000. The technology quickly caught the attention of the international sailing community.
“If you throw enough effort at something you can make a difference,” Morin said. “Something we built on little Lake Saint Clair is relevant in the Mediterranean and in lakes in Switzerland and in Australia.”
International voting ended at noon Friday. The Detroit crew was up against teams from New Zealand, Thailand and Italy. The results are expected within a week.
The winner will receive a $10,000 prize to help further their sustainability activities and a trophy made from recycled carbon fibre infused with bio resin.
More information on the MarkSetBot can be found on its official website here.