Anyone remember the Tintin comics by Herge, where Captain Haddock, the foul-mouthed, rum loving seaman tends to shout, “Blistering barnacles!” at different moments in the comics? Well, barnacles in real life might seem to be rather innocuous when you first lay your eyes on them, spotting them on the undersides of breaching whales, but when they make their homes on the underside of a ship, a significant amount of drag is created so much so that a vessel’s speed might be reduced by up to 10% – not to mention increasing fuel consumption by up to 40%. I can just imagine future weapons of the US Navy include “barnacle bombs” to slow down enemy vessels and make them more fuel hungry.

Well, barnacles know no friend or foe, and have so far ‘cost’ the Navy another $1 billion each year on extra fuel and the cleaning of its ships. I guess the Navy finally wisened up to the situation, where instead of literally throwing away that odd billion dollars or so annually, why not pump that dough into research on an autonomous robot that will be able to clean up the hulls of ships when underwater?

An underwater Roomba so to speak, this has been described as a “robotic hull biomimetic underwater grooming” – or Hull BUG for something short. Interesting, and will the US Navy outsource the service that the Hull BUG provides to other navies?

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