Harsh environment, less rain, and lack of infrastructure are among the many problems African countries face. Water scarcity and the lack of drinkable water, however, is a grave problem among all.  It makes people use water from contaminated bodies which is the sole reason of water borne diseases like, diarrhea and typhoid

Hundreds of organizations around the globe have taken this issue head-on. And Google, one of the most innovative companies of the planet, is in the league, too.

Google has launched multiple projects including Project Makani and Project Loon to resolve the power outages and connectivity issues in areas where they are most needed. Since the power and connectivity issues are already being worked upon, Google have taken another step to help these countries fight the water scarcity problem.

Recently, the USPTO granted Google a patent on a new rainwater harvesting system. The inventor, Kathleen Evelyn, is product manager at Google X.  The new system is self-dependent (more on it later) and harvests rainwater directly from an ocean. This could be Google’s another revolutionary project to avail water in the water scarce geographies.

The new rain harvesting system by Google includes disk shaped pods/rafts. These rafts are capable of collecting rainwater from an ocean as they float their way through it.

As African rainy conditions are not favorable enough to harvest water from land, Google opted to do the same through oceans. Further, it makes much more sense to harvest water from a wide and open area of a sea than of a land where there are way more obstacles.

Google Water Harvesting Drones Water scarcity

Above is a patent image which reveals how these rafts will look like. These rafts can navigate through an ocean using onboard navigation systems while collecting rainwater on their way. After a raft collects enough water, it returns to a delivery point. There it is decanted and sent back in an ocean for more.

How Google’s Rain Water Harvester is Self-Dependent?

In one of the paragraphs above, I mentioned that Google’s rain water harvester is self-dependent.  It’s because its rafts has solar panels to power the equipment. Its ground delivery stations use flying kites (Project Makani) to power itself. This also makes it feasible to use in areas where power outages is commonplace.

Google Water Harvesting Drones

Hurdles for Google’s Rain Water Harvester

The patent mentions multiple hurdles for the system. The first one is of the amount of sunlight an ocean receives.  Like good rain, for example, oceans receive good sunlight, too. This could evaporate the collected water.

The next is related to roughness of an ocean.  Rough tides could shake a raft enough to splash all the water back to an ocean.

Google, however, mentions that it has addressed both the problems. It uses a transparent top cover to prevent water getting evaporated and also uses a retractable canopy.

The holes in transparent cover allow rain water to drip in, however. Also, a transparent cover slows down bacteria growth. When not collecting water, these rafts can cover their top using inflatable canopy to prevent the evaporation. Below is a picture depicting working of the canopy.

Google Water Harvesting Drones

This is a really cool concept with a granted patent. It’s a kind of invention everyone around the globe would like to see in the action.

What are your views on this rain water harvester by Google? Where else it could be used and which additional hurdles it may encounter.

About Author: Shabaz Khan is a research analyst at GreyB Services. GreyB is a patent research and analytics firm that performs custom research investigations on patents, scientific articles, news, and industry trends