KARACHI: In 2002, 16-year-old Sajid Mehmoud sat in a sailboat for the first time and he was so fascinated with this form of transport that eight years later he himself made a sailboat.
But this sailboat is one with a difference. It uses a technology called fuzzy logic to adjust to different weather conditions. It is, what one may call in lay terms, an automatic sailboat. Mehmud may be inspired by the project but in reality it was six engineering students who got together and made it happen.
In this prototype, which was on display on Tuesday, the tricky manoeuvring of the sails and the rudders can be done with just the flick of a switch. Mehmoud first came up with the idea when he was admitted to the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) in 2006. After toying with the idea for the first couple of years, it was in his last year that he got a chance to turn his dream into reality.
In this, support came from Assistant Professor Chandan Lal. The main concept is to use fuzzy logic, which gives approximate answers rather than a simple yes or no (binary system) of usual computer logic. The boat is operated through artificial intelligence. Mehmoud was joined by Abid Muhammad Javaid, Daniyal Siddiqui, Syed Ahsan Qamar Hashmi, Syed Munib Raza and Zohaib Jamil in his project.
The title of the project was a mouthful: it was the “Autohelm control of the sailing boat using a fuzzy logic controller.”
According to the team, such a boat has never been developed in Pakistan, or even in South Asia, before. “The most important feature of the boat is that it can sail in high winds and can adjust to the environment automatically,” claimed SSUET chancellor Z.A. Nizami, proud of his institution’s achievement.
This boat can adjust to the wind itself, using advanced sensing techniques. The navigation of the boat is done by using the Global Positioning System (GPRS). But it was not all smooth sailing. The students complained of raising funds.
“All of us pooled in to raise around Rs40,000,” Mehmoud told people who came to the National Sailing Centre to see the prototype. The second challenge was to make an anemometer, a device that measures the speed of wind, because at Rs80,000, it was too expensive to buy.
This they then made themselves at a cost of Rs500. Sometimes the going got so tough that they would think of abandoning the project altogether. However, they pulled through in the end and finally brought Sajid’s dream to its logical conclusion.
“A boat like this [developed according to the model] can be used for fishing as a fish finding system can be embedded in to it,” Sajid said, while Abid added that it can also be used as a spy boat because of its small size.
The project has been presented in two events so far, one was arranged by the PAF-Karachi Institute of Economics and Technology and the other by COMSATS, Islamabad.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NOOR JAVERI