An unmanned surface vessel that can search for oil spills while using the crude oil it discovers for power. That's the idea behind a test conducted by Cyclone Power Technologies
, which showed its external combustion engine could, without modification, burn crude oil recovered from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cyclone is developing a steam engine with an external combustion system that can generate power from almost any fuel source. The company is working with Robotic Technologies
under a DARPA project to develop an unmanned ground vehicle that can perform extended surveillance missions by harvesting vegetation to refuel itself.
The latest test used a small amount of spilled crude recovered from a beach in southern Alabama and separated from sand and other impurities by Unified Fuels. The test proved the crude could be ignited through the combustion-chamber fuel atomizers without modification, generating enough heat to power Cyclone's 100hp Mark V engine.