Compass Guided Kayak Autopilot


Last July, [Louis] bought a kayak off of Craigslist. It was a pedal-powered device with a hand-operated rudder, and he ended up enjoying his time on the water. [Louis] fishes, though, and it was a bit of a challenge to manage hands free fishing while maintaining a steady course. His solution was an Arduino-powered autopilot that allows him to troll for salmon and Arduino haters with just the push of a button.

In [Louis]‘ system, a motor is attached to the steering lever along with a few limit switches. This motor is powered by an Arduino controlled with an LSM303 compass module from Sparkfun.

When the autopilot module is started up, it first checks to see if the compass module is enabled. If not, the system relies on two tact switches to change the position of the rudder. Enabling the compass requires a short calibration of spinning the kayak around in a circle, but after that the steering is dead on.

There are a few things [Louis] would like to add such as a heading display and a bluetooth module for remote control. This setup already landed him a 13 lb salmon, so we’re going to say it’s good enough to catch some dinner.


  1. Put the LSM303 board on top of a servo and have it calibrate it self instead of spin the entire kayak around. :D Needs more laziness.

  2. Andrew says:

    Surely if the computer is in control of the steering it can be programmed to make its own circular path to calibrate itself. User interface consists of an LED labelled “Hold tight!”

  3. Heffo says:

    Replace the Left/Right rudder buttons with a thumb-stick (

  4. PeterV says:

    I think the word is ‘trawl’ and not ‘troll’. ;)

  5. voxnulla says:

    Dammit…. I don’t hate Arduinos, but I do distrust people who fish.. I never can seem to get a break…

  6. xobmo says:

    lol@catching Arduino Haters…

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