Jian Wan GCRF Project, Sailboat, Penang Island.

The aim of this project was to develop capacity and capability to monitor coastal marine environments for sustainable development in Penang Island. At the University of Plymouth, we focused on developing and testing various autonomous sailboat platforms during the summer months of the project, while similar platforms were also developed and tested in Penang, Malaysia.

Professor Mohd Rizal Arshad from Universiti Sains Malaysia visited the University of Plymouth, while Dr Louise Firth visited Universiti Sains Malaysia in order to plan the research activities. It was agreed that the focus of the project would be on coastal water quality monitoring using autonomous sailboats.

Top view of Georgetown, capital of Penang Island - courtesy of Getty Images

Building on the current project and the intention of closer collaboration between the two parties, a memorandum of understanding between Universiti Sains Malaysia and the University of Plymouth has been signed to formalize the partnership in a wider perspective. The collaborators from Malaysia aim to make full use of the signed MoU to attract more government support for such collaborations in the future.

Jian Wan GCRF Project, Penang Island, Malaysia

Currently the autonomous sailboat for carrying the measurement sensors has been tested in the Roadford Lake here in Devon and at sea. The boat has also won a 2nd prize for the 12th World Robotic Sailing Championship held at Ningbo, China during 25–30 August 2019. A similar sailboat was also developed and tested at Universiti Sains Malaysia. The next step is to fit the corresponding sensors for water quality measurements onto the sailboat and to conduct data collection for the following ecological studies in Penang Island, Malaysia.

Benefits and impacts of the project