This Wave-Skimming Pontoon is Unimpressed by Motions of the Ocean

By Andrew Tarantola on at

When bouncing between five-foot swells in a conventional-hulled boat, a case of seasickness will be the least of your worries; enough speed and those bone-jarring impacts can rattle joints clean out of their sockets. That is, unless you're aboard the Velodyne Martini 1.5 prototype, the world's first sea-faring vessel sporting an active suspension.

Developed by David Hall—the guy that invented the LIDAR system Google's self-driving cars use—and a team of engineers at Velodyne Marine in the Bay Area, the Martini 1.5 is actually the second iteration of this prototype vessel which first debuted at the Miami boat show last year.

What's really cool is that the system uses OTS components and fairly inexpensive ones at that. The suspension works like this: gyroscopes mounted on each corner of the cabin relay data to a central processor that controls the ship's air compressor. This compressor feeds into four pneumatic cylinders separating the pontoons from the cabin platform at each corner. It's the same principle as terrestrial active suspensions, simply applied to a new setting. As the sensors detect an incoming wake, the system compensates for the rise and drop of the wave—again, as much as 5.5 feet in either direction—by raising or lowering the individual pontoon corners.

The original craft featured a 6-passenger cabin seated atop a pair of 35 foot long pontoons and powered by 150 hp outboard motors. It could handle three-foot swells while traveling around 25 mph. The more powerful Martini 1.5 boasts 250 hp screw propellers and can tackle 5.5 foot waves going 30 mph. The next iteration, which could launch as soon as next month will further bump the horsepower to 300, allowing the Martini 2.0 to rip over seven-foot swells going 50 mph without rocking the cabin more than two degrees in any direction.

There's no word yet on when this system will reach market, or how much it'd cost once it does. But hopefully it'll be before your favorite lake gets too choppy. [Neatorama - Boating Mag - Boats - PR Web - Wired]

Images: Velodyne Marine