[Rusty]‘s project for the Hackaday Prize is extremely ambitious. He’s planning on sending an autonomous craft across the ocean, from LA to Hawaii, a distance that will end up being well over 2,500 miles The best part about this project? It’s already had some time in the ocean, cruising off the coast of southern California under its own power for a distance of 20km.
Why is [Rusty] doing this? Partly because he wanted to do something no one had ever done before. For him, this meant developing a cheap underwater thruster, building an autonomous solar-powered surfboard for a months-long voyage halfway across the Pacific. It’s a small step to the goal of exploring the deep ocean with his thruster and mostly off the shelf parts, but already [Rusty] has learned a lot about electronics in a marine environment and being confident enough to let a project go on its own for months at a time.
My hobby has always been engineering. It started when I was 4 years old and got a model train set. By the time I was 9 or 10, I was scratch building train cars and building 555 timer circuits for traffic lights on my layout. Since then, I’ve gone through a lot of hobby phases: computers, botany, music, model airplanes, real airplanes, microcontrollers, multicopters, and most recently marine robotics.
I’m a mechanical/aerospace engineer by education. Most of my career so far has been spent designing the electronics, software, and control systems for this:
I left that job a few months ago to start a marine robotics company, Blue Robotics. I love engineering, I love business, and I love my job.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to do what I love everyday! In fact, I don’t think I’d do a very good job if it wasn’t my passion. Besides that, I love flying. I’ve had my private pilots license for a few years and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
At the moment, it’s the Kickstarter page editor. Somehow, a few non-printable characters have made it into our Kickstarter page and they cause edits to show up in the wrong place, inserted images to show up at the bottom instead of where you want them, etc. It drives me crazy when I need to update something. I absolutely love Kickstarter but they need to fix that.
In terms of actual equipment, I’m not a fan any milling machine or lathe that isn’t properly aligned and doesn’t actually do what the digital read-out says (like ours).
Linux. I just wish there was good CAD software for it.
Hot-air soldering station. It’s such a versatile tool. From SMD assembly to regular soldering to heat shrinking, it’s always useful.
It blows my mind what you can do (and has been done) with the Atmega168/328/1280/2560 (aka Arduino). I’ve designed countless boards around them for all sorts of things.
C++ although I always go to Python when I need to do something quickly.
- I’d like to successfully send our SolarSurfer from LA to Hawaii. It will be pretty incredible to watch it come to shore after months at sea.
- I want to film the deep ocean with a relatively low-cost platform. Not sure of the specifics yet and I’m sure it’ll take some time to get there.
- I’d like to do a long-distance trip with an ultralight solar-powered sUAS. Think flying wing, 3′ wingspan, 3D printed ribs and spars, less than 100 grams total. The hard part about this one is that you’d have to reach very high (and very illegal) altitudes to be able to glide through the night.
The idea for the SolarSurfer came about simply because we were looking for something interesting that had never been done. We didn’t have much experience with marine robotics when we started but I had a lot of experience writing autopilots and working with the hardware we are using.
It’s turned into more than a hobby with the development of our thruster. We’re really excited to see what the future holds.
Where in Hawaii should we aim to land? I’ve never actually been there myself. This seems like a pretty good excuse to go.
I like the OpenBLDC controller because I’ve been working on something similar and I can appreciate the need for a good open-source controller. I also like the Goliath multicopter. Having flown a 4,400 lb multicopter, I can understand the challenges that you run into. I’m excited to see how the centralized engine approach works.
Our project is going great! We’re a bit delayed by all the work that gone along with our Kickstarter campaign, but we’ll be doing more tests in the near future. We’ve also got a live tracking/data interface in the works that will be publicly accessible online. We’re excited about that.
Thanks for the opportunity, Hackaday! We are honored to be among the top 50 projects. Make sure you check out our Kickstarter campaign for the T100 Underwater Thruster, which is used on the SolarSurfer.