Scout, The Autonomous Transatlantic Boat


Sailing a small boat across the Atlantic ocean is quite the daunting task. As many have discovered, it is a journey often fraught with perils, typically ending in failure. A team of four college students decided the best way to get a small boat across the ocean would be to remove the human element from the process, so they set off to build an autonomous craft to take on the task.

Like most projects, this one started as a handful of wild ideas exchanged between friends [Dylan Rodriguez and Max Kramers]. As they thought about it more, they decided that turning [Max’s] sailboat into an autonomous ocean-going craft would be pretty awesome, so they got to work. Recruiting help from their friends [Brendan Prior and Ricky Lyman], the project started to quickly take shape, and Scout was born.

Scout is 8 feet long and consists of foam core covered in carbon fiber. It is filled with various electronic components such as a SPOT tracker, a battery bank that will power the boat for up to 25 hours, and the various servos and motors which will be used to pilot the craft.

It’s a rather ambitious project, though the boat is nearly complete – just in time for their launch, slated for May 29th. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on this project as the launch date approaches – good luck guys!

Head on over to their Kickstarter page to see a promo video introducing Scout.

22 thoughts on “Scout, The Autonomous Transatlantic Boat

  1. @lv
    based on the solar panel on top, I would assume that it charges each day and the 25 hours gives it enough to get through an overcast day when it can’t charge.

  2. Hey guys-
    The picture here is just of a prototype that we’ve been using to test our programming. The solar panel here is just running the GPS and other electronics, the motor is driven by a DeWalt battery. The proper solar panels are on their way from Cali and the LiFePO4 batteries are on their way from China.
    Any questions, shoot us an email at

  3. If you’ve ever followed the DARPA grand challenge teams, you’ll know that the most successful teams are those that spend a substantial amount of time and money on testing. Just putting everything together days before the “deadline” is a recipe for failure.

    There website seems too focused on the construction and the end-goal without any mention of testing. They mention a few problems they’ve thought of (getting run over, getting tangled in seaweed, cloudy weather) but you just don’t know what’s going to happen until you put the boat in the water and let it go over night a few times. Just ask Team Red from MIT. They built two cars and landed 2nd and 3rd because the fuel pump in the lead car had unanticipated problems. It’s an ambitious goal but I think they need to push their launch date way back.

  4. SPOT? I would have been more excited to see 2m APRS and use of the APRS satellites in orbit for position info. Heck you could send commands to the boat with APRS too. Does anyone know if any of the APRS sats footprint would cover a APRS Igate and the middle of the Atlantic?

  5. Too cool!

    Yes, I thought of doing this years ago, but since I live in Illinois and know next to nothing about boats, Well…

    I thought it’d have to have a sail as I didn’t think the solar cells would get enough power to actually drive the boat.

    I’ll be watching the progress.

  6. @ jeremy; yes the aprs sats will cover the Atlantic, but only at about 10 minutes each pass. The kind of foot print you have in mind is in the realm of geosynchronous satellites. Other orbits may come close, but not LEO that the aprsats are Beyond that remote control of this sort is not permitted on 2 meters by the FCC. A control station in the US should abide by FCC regulations, and be mindful of the fact that the boat will enter another ITU zone where other regulations will come into play At one time I operated using the packet station on MIR, the LEO birds wiz by fast.

  7. .. Also, check out the swedish boatbuilder Sven Yrvind (
    He have many years of experience building and sailing small and sail them boats across the oceans.
    72 years old and still going strong, he’s building a 4.8m long, 1.3m wide sailboat.
    He have a great project-blogg! Check it out, he have some intresting thoughts about boat building.

  8. agree with andrew, that testing is paramount. There will be a lot of wear on parts, from wind salt water and so on, and noone to make adjustments along the way.

    it will be more satisfying to send it along across the world after youve tested it with everything you can throw at it, than having it fail as soon as it is out of your reach.

  9. I think I saw the builder on here – you should check out the salvage laws for unmanned vessels in international waters. If someone sees your boat, they can claim it. Practically speaking, the law doesn’t matter if you can’t tell who has it. Hope you’re considering this.

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