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.

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

Chris Alexakiswater