Ambitious Hackerboat Project Still Aiming High

Last year we wrote about Hackerbot Labs’ autonomous boat, which project members hope to someday circumnavigate the globe. Now called Project Ladon, progress continues apace with a recent ocean test of their modified 18’ kayak, the TSV Disputed Right of Way. The kayak’s internal spaces contain a pair of lead-acid truck batteries controlled by a home-brewed control system that uses relays to control the craft’s trolling motor, with a Beaglebone and Arduino Mega under the hood.

The test was not exactly a success, with the boat actually avoiding the waypoints rather than sticking to them. Fortunately the team was aboard a chase boat so they were able to keep tabs on the craft. Unlike a quadcopter, which just falls down, a watercraft that borks may never be seen again.

Entered into the 2016 Hackaday Prize, the project has continued to gather steam, with presentations at both Toorcamp and Maker Faire Bay Area. In addition, they’re maintaining their Hackaday.io project site as well as a Patreon page.

Check out a couple of videos after the break! The test video is 360-degrees so you can drag around the POV.

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Crossing The Atlantic In A 42 Inch Boat

In the world of sailing, there are many records to compete over. Speed records, endurance records, size records. The fastest crossing, the longest solo journey, the largest yacht.

But not all records concern superlatives, for example in the size stakes, there are also records for the smallest vessels. The Atlantic crossing has been completed by a succession of ever smaller boats over the years, and the current record from 1993 is held by the 5’4″ (1.626m) boat Father’s Day.

Records are made to be broken, and there is now a challenger to the crown in the form of the impossibly tiny 42″ (1.067m) Undaunted, the creation of [Matt Kent], who intends to sail the boat from the Canary Islands to the USA in around 4 months.

The boat’s design is definitely unusual, with a square aluminium hull of equal beam and length, and a very deep keel that has an emergency drinking water tank as its ballast. The sail is a square rig — imagine picture-book images of Viking ships for a minute — and it has two rudders. We are not nautical engineers here at Hackaday, but reading the descriptions of the boat we understand it to have more in common with a buoy in the way it handles than it does with a sleek racing yacht.

Unfortunately the first sailing attempt suffered a setback due to a design flaw in the way the vessel’s emergency flotation is attached. This was revealed by its interaction with some unusual waves. But [Matt] will be back for another try, and with luck we’ll see him on our TV screens sometime next year as he emerges into the Florida sunshine from his cramped quarters. Meanwhile his unusual boat and its construction makes for a fascinating read that we’re sure you’ll appreciate.

We don’t often cover boat building here at Hackaday. But if unusual ocean crossings are of interest, here’s an autonomous one we looked at back in 2010.

[via Yachting World]

You Will Want To Build This Canoe

There is something about a wooden boat that should be facsinating to most makers, the craftsmanship and level of work that goes into creating a sea-, lake-, or river-worthy craft with smooth lines, from little more than thin pieces of wood. Master boatbuilders have apprenticeships that last years, and spend entire careers refining their art.

[Adam], also known as [A Guy Doing Stuff], is not a master boatbuilder. In his words, he’s just a guy with some basic woodworking knowledge, who builds canoes from cedar strips. But you wouldn’t know that he has no training as a boatbuilder from looking at his work, which you can do because he’s posted some beauthiful videos.

We see the creation of a skeleton to produce the basic shape of the boat, followed by the creation of prow and stern. Then there is a painstaking application of carefully shaped cedar strips to make the hull, and a single layer of glass fibre on either side. With the gel coat applied though you wouldn’t know the fibre was there. Finally we have the creation of the seats and interior fittings, followed by the canoe being paddled across a lake.

Few of us may ever make a canoe. But if we did, we’d want it to be one like this one.

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Canary Island Team Wins World Robotic Sailing 2016

If you’re like us, you had no idea that there even was a World Robotic Sailing Championship. But we’re glad that we do now! And congratulations to the team of A-Tirma G2, the winning boat. (Link in Spanish, difficult to translate — if you can figure out how, post in the comments?)

The Championship has apparently been going on for nine years now, and moves to a different location around the world each year. The contests for 2016 (PDF) are by no means trivial. Besides a simple there-and-back regatta, the robot boats have to hold position, scan a prescribed area, and avoid a big obstacle and return quickly back to their lane. All of this with wind power, of course.

The winning boat used solid sails, which act essentially as vertical wings, and was designed for rough weather. This paid off in the area-scanning test; the winds were so strong that the organizers considered calling it off, but team A-Tirma’s boat navigated flawlessly, giving them enough points to win the event even though camera malfunction kept them from completing the obstacle avoidance.

stationkeepingtrackingUnless you’ve sailed, it’s hard to appreciate the difficulty of these challenges to an autonomous vehicle. It’s incredibly hard to plan far ahead because the boat’s motive power source, the wind, isn’t constant. But the boat has, relatively speaking, a lot of inertia and no brakes, so the robot has to plan fairly far in advance. That any of the 2-4 meter long boats could stay inside a circle of 20 meters is impressive. Oh, and did we mention that A-Tirma did all of this calculating and reacting on solar power?

Because the wind is so fickle, drone sailboats are much less popular than drone motorboats — at least using the Hackaday Blogpost Metric ™. The hackerboat project is trying out sails, but they’re still mostly working on powered propulsion. We do have an entry in the 2016 Hackaday Prize, but it’s looking like the development process is in the doldrums. Still, sailing is the best way to go in the end, because windpower is essentially free on the open ocean, which means less work for the solar panels.

As far as role-models go, you’ve basically got the entrants in the World Robotic Sailing Championships. So kudos to the A-Tirma team, and thanks [Nikito] for the tip!

Waste Shark Aims To Clean Our Harbours And Oceans

Drones are adding functionality to our everyday lives, and automation is here to help humanity whether we’re ready for it or not. In a clever combination of the two, [Richard Hardiman] of RanMarine has developed small drone-boats that scoop up garbage from the ocean — he calls them ‘Waste Sharks.’

The two models — slim and fatboy — aim to collect up to 1,100 pounds of garbage apiece in the ‘mouths’ just below the water’s surface. The Waste Sharks are still restricted to remote control and are only autonomous when traveling between waypoints, but one can see how this technology could evolve into the “Wall-E of water.”

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Cheap Toy Airboat Gets a Cheap R/C Upgrade

[Markus Gritsch] and his son had a fun Sunday putting together a little toy airboat from a kit. They fired it up and it occurred to [Markus] that it was pretty lame. It went forward and sometimes sideward when a stray current influenced its trajectory, but it had no will of its own.

The boat was extracted from water before it could wander off and find itself lost forever. [Markus] did a mental inventory of his hacker bench and decided this was a quickly rectified design shortcoming. He applied a cheap knock-off arduino, equally cheap nRF24L01+ chip of dubious parentage, and their equivalent hobby servo to the problem.

Some quick coding later, assisted by prior work from other RC enthusiasts, the little boat was significantly upgraded. Now the boat could be brought back to shore using any R/C controller that supported the, “Bayang,” protocol. He wouldn’t have to face the future in which he’d have to explain to his son that the boat, like treacherous helium balloons, was just gone. Video after the break.

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Garage-built Aluminum Miniboat Tears up the Surf. Or Not.

It’s the water-borne equivalent of building a minibike out of steel pipe and an old lawnmower engine. Except it’s a DIY personal watercraft made out of aluminum and an old chainsaw, and it has that same garage build feel – and the same disappointing results.

When we first saw the video below, we were hoping for one of those boats that let you water ski by yourself, or a wave-hopping, rooster tailing DIY jet ski. Alas, the chainsaw [MakeItExtreme] chose to power this boat is woefully underpowered, and the boat barely has enough oomph to make a wake. [MakeItExtreme] acknowledges the underwhelming results and mentions plans to fix the boat with a more powerful engine and a water jet drive rather than the trolling motor propeller they used. Still, whatever improvements they make will probably leverage the work they put into the hull, which is a pretty impressive display of metalwork. We’re used to seeing [MakeItExtreme] work in steel, so it was interesting to watch aluminum panels being cut, bent, and welded into a watertight hull. Looks like there’s plenty of room in there for more power, and we’re looking forward to version 2.0 of this build.

If you like rough and ready metalworking videos, there are plenty of them on [MakeItExtreme]’s YouTube channel. We’ve covered quite a few before, including this all-terrain hoverboard and a spot welder that’s more-or-less safe to use.

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