Students from the Undergraduate Degree in Engineering create a new rescue prototype for Open Arms

Flotto is a maritime rescue device that turns drifting into safe and dry spaces for rescued people. Born out of the migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, this project has been created by Ángela García, David Sancho, Eva Palmer, Garazi Diaz, Julia Román and Mei Xen Bertranpetit, students from Elisava’s Undergraduate Degree in Industrial Design Engineering, and emphasises the growing power of women in the engineering sector.

The Flotto prototype is based on a study of the needs of Open Arms and aims to increase the chances of saving the lives of migrants who arrive in Europe via the Mediterranean.

How does Flotto work?

Flotto is a device that is attached to the boat in which migrants arrive. This changes the rescue protocol: instead of providing a float to the individuals, it is provided to the entire boat. Flotto is inflated in phases, a system that allows it to reach from the bow to the centre, to provide buoyancy to the whole boat from a safe point, thus creating an ephemeral and dry space. The prototype is foldable, reusable and adaptable to different types of boats up to four tonnes.

The context: the migration crisis in the Mediterranean

Thousands of people risk their lives as they cross the Mediterranean in overloaded boats to reach land and find a better life. The terrible conditions in which they travel lead to emergency situations, due to European policies that obstruct any legal means of access to migrants.

Providing stability to drifting boats improves the experience of both the rescuers, who have more time and control over the rescue, and the rescued, who are more likely to survive on their way to Europe. According to data from UNHCR (the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) or the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 44,956 lives have been lost since 2014 on a global scale. The bodies of 19,690 people who lost their lives during migration have not been found. The deadliest route is the Central Mediterranean route, where at least 22,836 people have died since 2014.

Future prospects

After having tested the prototype’s performance on a real boat in the Port of Badalona, the Trustto team has realised the value that this device can bring not only to Open Arms but also to the entire community of people and maritime rescue organisations. In this way, Flotto is an innovative solution that the team intends to share with everyone who is involved in the maritime rescue sector.

What is Trustto?

Flotto is part of Trustto, a project created by Miquel Tejero, Martin Koch and Francesc Mestres, tutors at Elisava. This project highlights the value of engineering and design applied to humanitarian and social emergencies for groups with limited resources, who normally do not have access to technological innovations. Trustto allows students to undertake real projects with companies and institutions, promoting their autonomy. Last year, for example, they worked with the GRAE Unit of the Fire Brigade of the Generalitat de Catalunya..

It is thanks to projects like this one that Elisava promotes high-level engineering and design applied to humanitarian and social emergencies for groups with few resources, who do not usually benefit from these improvements.