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Artificial intelligence drives yachts making hydrogen from seawater

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence and autonomous sailing yachts can generate green hydrogen from seawater, store the results and port it.

Artificial intelligence is being harnessed by DRIFT Energy and Faculty to create a fleet of autonomous AI directed sailboats capable of producing green hydrogen at sea.

The energy yachts harness and convert wind energy at sea to generate green hydrogen, which it stores onboard ready to be transported to hubs and ports for commercial use.  To maximise efficiency, the autonomous vessels are routed around favourable weather systems to ensure they remain in optimum wind and sea conditions.

Faculty and DRIFT have developed a routing algorithm to make sure the vessels continually take the optimal route to maintain the highest possible load factor over a specified trip, whilst staying clear of danger and maintaining enough power to make it back to port. The algorithm gathers three main data inputs: route options, boat properties and weather data to determine the best route.

Pioneering initial trials in summer 2022 proved successful, producing green hydrogen and outperforming expectations.

The findings of the trial suggest a flotilla of DRIFT’s energy yachts, operating from Penzance, could achieve a load factor of 72.5 per cent, New York around 77 per cent and 82 per cent at some locations in the mid-Atlantic. By comparison verified load factors for wind turbines in the UK are 26.5 per cent for onshore wind farms and 39.9 per cent for offshore wind farms – so the potential behind the concept is huge.

Green hydrogen, ultimately destined for commercial use in the net zero transition, has not been produced in this way before anywhere in the world. The AI routing algorithm is critical to DRIFT’s operations and unlocks a unique advantage over other renewable classes, by making green energy mobile.

Travelling at speeds of up to 25 knots (just under 30mph) spins a propeller beneath the waves which in turn drives a turbine and produces electricity to split water into green hydrogen and oxygen.  DRIFT Energy’s first two prototype vessels are small scale at this stage but DRIFT Energy is looking to scale up the technology.  The next versions of the vessels will be capable of producing up to 1MW of green hydrogen. 

The engineering behind DRIFT Energy’s yacht design is pioneering.  However, the special ingredient is in using a proprietary routing algorithm to find optimal wind and weather conditions at sea to maximize green hydrogen production. 

Artificial intelligence firm Faculty, which is working with DRIFT Energy, found that a flotilla of energy yachts operating from Penzance could achieve a load factor of 72.5 per cent.  Verified load factors for wind turbines in the UK are 26.5 per cent for onshore wind farms and 39.9 per cent for offshore wind farms and 5.7 per cent for marine wave & tidal.  DRIFT Energy’s yachts are almost three times as efficient as onshore wind farms.

“Artificial Intelligence makes the DRIFT’s business model possible and scalable,” said Ben Medland, ceo of Drift Energy. “It is a great example of how AI is no longer an enhancement for existing business processes, but the driver of new ventures, businesses and possibilities.”

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