Google can solve California’s drought problem with ‘rain-catcher’ boats?

With a few inches of much-needed rain having fallen over the weekend around the Bay Area, it’s yet to be seen whether the region will see a return this winter — or the next, or the next — to sustaining precipitation levels.

And indeed, climate change and human water use spread the risk of catastrophic drought over much of the world.

Who can save us?

Possibly Google.

The Mountain View tech colossus has just received a patent for a system of ocean-going boats, powered by wind-catching tethered drones, that would travel the currents of the seven seas, getting caught in the rain, and delivering the precious liquid to collection centers.

“Rainwater is an inexpensive source of fresh water,” said the patent document. “However, collection of rain water has typically been limited to land. Since a significant amount of rain falls over the world’s oceans, it would be desirable to have a system for collecting rainwater in the open ocean.”

Inventor of the system of “rain-catcher” boats, also described in the patent as rafts, is Kathleen Cooper, a product manager at Google’s “X” lab for “moonshot” experiments.

Satellite-based control systems could manage the movements of the fleet of rain-catchers, the patent said.

While sails, electric or gas motors could be used to power the vessels, the patent emphasizes use of “airborne wind turbines.” These could be aerial drones tethered to a raft, using wind to create electricity, according to the patent.

Of course, there’s no guarantee the “rainwater harvesting system” will be coming to an ocean near you.


Photo: Google headquarters in Mountain View (AFP/Getty Images)


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  • John O’Grady

    Another Way to Collect Rainwater.

    Imagine one of those little kiddie pools that have an inflatable ring with a flat bottom.

    Now imagine a HUGE version of the same thing except this time the bottom is conical in shape, and at the bottom of that is a tube that siphons away the water to land or a tanker ship by power of a pump.

    Whenever rain is coming you could deploy a flotilla of these rings and I believe that you could capture a LOT of clean, easily processed water.

    Plus I think that you’d have less environmental/water rights issues to grapple with. When I read about the huge amount of rain that falls on
    the average roof this seems like a wonderful idea.

    You’ve got lots of people with brilliant minds. Surely they can find a way to make this low-tech idea work. For our survival; we need you.