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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Building a Swarm of Autonomous Ocean Boats

There’s a gritty feel to the Hackerboat project. It doesn’t have slick and polished marketing, people lined up with bags of money to get in on the ground floor, or a flashy name (which I’ll get to in a bit). What it does have is a dedicated team of hackers who are building prototypes to solve some really big challenges. Operating on the ocean is tough on equipment, especially so with electronics. Time and tenacity has carried this team and their project far.

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Maglev, Submersibles, and More at Maker Faire Detroit

This past weekend the Maker Faire returned to the motor city. While it seemed a bit smaller than previous years, the event still brought in a ton of awesome makers from the metro Detroit area and beyond.

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Although we don’t feature too many woodworking projects, there were quite a few woodworkers at the Faire with projects ranging from custom longboards pressed with a home built iron mold to DIY kayaks with elaborate wooden skeletons built by a local group of Michigan kayak builders. The kayaks were quite impressive: hand sewn nylon panels are wrapped around custom frames made from steamed white oak. It’s great to speak with the makers about the specialized skills needed for kayak building.

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Adding Tie Down Points To Almost Any Car

You know, sometimes it’s the simple hacks that get our attention.  If you have a roof rack, and use it often to shuttle things around, adding these stow-away, front tie downs might be for you.

Most all cars will have a few bolts along the top of the fender that ties into a semi-rigid or structural part of the vehicle. [Andrew Morrow] used about 12 inches of nylon strap, added a hole to the both ends, and attached them to the fender bolts. With the hood closed, he now has a convenient tie down location for what ever he’s hauling around.  We love that when not in use they simply can be stored beneath the hood. Hidden away, but not something you’ll forget to bring with you, or easily lost.  Just make sure that they don’t come in contact with moving engine parts, or hot exhaust manifolds.

Reverse Engineering the Kayak Mobile API

The travel meta-search website Kayak apparently used to have a public API which is no longer available. We can’t say we mourn the loss of the interface we’d never known about. If you are someone who was automating their searches for that perfect vacation getaway deal, there’s still hope. But either way you’ll like this one. [Shubhro Saha] figured out how to access the API used by the Kayak mobile app. We like that he details how to sniff the traffic between an app and the internet and make sense of what is found.

His tool of choice is the Python package Mitmproxy. We haven’t heard of it but we have heard of Wireshark and [Shabhro] makes the case that Mitmproxy is superior for this application. As the name suggests, you set it up on your computer and use that box’s IP as the proxy connection for your phone. After using the app for a bit, there is enough data to start deconstructing what’s going on between the app and remote server which which it communicates. We could have a lot of fun with this, like seeing what info those free apps are sending home, or looking for security flaws in your own creations.

[Thanks Juan via Twitter]

Compass Guided Kayak Autopilot

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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.

Kayak to sailboat conversion shows how to weld plastics

This kayak to sailboat conversion is well done and makes for an interesting project. But even if you’re not going to be hitting the water on one of your own, the construction techniques are a useful resource to keep in mind. Many of the alterations were done with a plastic welding iron.

[RLZerr] shows off the materials that went into the build right at the beginning of the video which you’ll find after the break. His kayak is made of High Density Polyethylene and he uses other HDPE scraps, PCV parts, and even some aluminum to make everything. To weld HDPE together he uses a plastic welding iron that is like a cross between a soldering iron and a hot glue gun. It has a pad tip that gets hot enough to melt the plastic, but also includes a channel through which additional HDPE filament can be fed to bulk up the connections.

Additions to the kayak include a centerboard, rudder, and mast. The sail is a plastic tarp attached to the PVC mast which has been stiffened with a wooden shovel handle in its core. The rudder and centerboard are aluminum attached to PVC pipes using JB weld. The boat catches the wind easily, but without outriggers [RLZerr] must be careful not to let a big gust swamp him.

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