Donald Savage

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1727)

Nancy Lovato

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

(Phone: 818/354-0474)

RELEASE: 00-61

A new robotic device that safely strips paint from the
hulls of ships without polluting the environment is based on
NASA robotics technology.

The system, which has received kudos from
environmentalist and undersea explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau,
could revolutionize paint removal in the shipping industry.
Current sandblasting methods potentially can contaminate
waters surrounding harbors.

Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
CA; the Robotics Engineering Consortium at Carnegie Mellon
University, Pittsburgh, PA; and UltraStrip Systems, Inc.,
Stuart, FL, the new system consists of an automated robotic
device that is magnetized to the ship, a set of high-pressure
jet streams, and a controller that helps the robot navigate
along the surface of the ship. The water is filtered and
then reused, while the paint residue is collected in a
container and can then be disposed of safely. Using this
method, no toxic dust or paint flakes are generated to
pollute nearby areas or to be inhaled by system operators.

“Having now personally seen demonstrations of the M2000,
I know the system works,” said Cousteau, president of Ocean
Futures, Santa Barbara, CA. “It is inspiring to see a
technology that can have such a positive environmental impact
while at the same time providing a benefit to the
profitability of the shipyard industry.”

“Robotics technology developed at the various NASA
centers has resulted in new products ranging from automated
harvesting, coal mining, earth moving, and material transport
to robotic inspection and repair for gas pipelines, and
agricultural spraying, to name a few,” said Dr. Neville
Marzwell, who heads Advanced Concepts and Technology
Innovations at JPL.

Previous stripping methods sandblasted paint from a
Ship’s hull, producing large amounts of toxic airborne dust
and exposing workers, nearby communities and the environment
to significant risks. The new method, which uses
UltraStrip’s patented Robotic M2000 hydroblasting technology,
uses only water in the paint-removal process and produces
dried paint chips and clean water. Since a powerful vacuum
collects all water and paint, nothing can escape to pollute
the environment.

“We feel that the UltraStrip application is an excellent
match with our commercialization goals. This system gives us
a great opportunity to showcase robotics technology in a
significant commercial application which will benefit the
environment at the same time,” said Bill Ross, consortium
project manager.

Still in development are computer-vision-based cruise
control; sensors to detect surface quality, paint thickness,
and any paint left on the hull; and diagnostic and analytic
tools to optimize the speed of the robot for efficient and
effective operations.

The technology was created under the National Robotics
Engineering Consortium — a NASA, industry, and university
partnership to develop new industrial products and services
from technologies that help solve key problems and
reinvigorate the U.S. robotics industry. Consortium
activities provide a process to move rapidly developing
robotics technology into industrial applications, and, in
turn, to provide next-generation technology products for the
Agency’s science missions. The consortium also provides
hands-on experience to students who will be the next
generation of robotics scientists, technologists, and

The consortium is managed by Marzwell at JPL, and Rick
Kadunc from the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters,
Washington, DC. UltraStrip’s president is Dennis McGuire.
Cousteau is also on the board of UltraStrip.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena.

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