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Autonomous sailboat

For quite some time now I’ve got the goal to master the basics of electronics and code something other than a website. Having another hobby, building model sail boats, it was rather obvious for me to merge all of this in a boat that is going to be intelligent. I’ll do my best to explain how I proceed and what my experiences are. For now, Arduino looks like a very simple ‘plug and play’ solution with all the available sensors and library’s so it should be easy to get things up and running in a short time.At this moment the IOM SKA has the basic functionality up and running. This means that the rudder and the winch to adjust the sail are remote controlled via standard components and no intelligence is used. Now it’s time to make it smart. Since I don’t have any experience with electronics or Arduino I assume it is a long road to a fully autonomous boat. That’s why I’ll take small steps and add more functionality in different phases/prototypes.

The prototype has the following hardware to start with:

  • Arduino UNO rev 3
  • GPS and SD card
  • RC Control via Arduino
  • Rudder servo
  • Sail winch/servo
  • Sensor in gooseneck* in order to sense the location of the boom
  • Wind vane sensor* to sense the wind direction

*For the sensors a separate post will be written in the future.

Functionality prototype 1

The first prototype will have two modes: one manual mode, just like the normal remote control, and the other semi automatic.

  • Manual control
    This is the normal RC sail boat behavior. The rudder and the sails are controlled by the person with the Tx (transmitter). All the input of the Tx is communicated by the Rx (receiver) in the boat and is passed through the Arduino. This is a 1:1 communication. Via a switch on the Tx the mode can be switched to semi automatic
  • Semi Automatic
    The sails are automatically adjusted while changing course. There is no need for the person with the transmitter to control the sails. Only the course over ground is manually controlled.

The prototype will also have a GPS to gather information about the location, speed, course, etc and a SD card slot so all the sensor data can be logged during the trip for later analyses.

Descriptions about future prototypes will follow soon.

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