Hackaday Prize Entry: Autonomous Kayaks

[Barry] has an expedition planned. He’s going to be exploring coastlines, inlets, and other shallow waters where even small ROVs are too big. [Barry] wants an autonomous vehicle on this expedition, though, and that means he must build his own. This led to The Julius Project, repurposed kayaks, and all the techniques that go into making proper maritime electronics.

The first question [Barry] gets is, ‘why kayaks?’ A quick cruise around Craigslist is enough to answer that – they’re cheap, and they’re available in almost infinite variety from big touring kayaks to small play boats, all built for different conditions and expeditions. With a few motors and modular parts to this build, [Barry] has an autonomous aquatic vessel built for every condition imaginable.

Right now, [Barry]’s focus is getting the propulsion working. This comes in the form of a few brushless motors bolted to the underside of the kayak. A tethered test was very successful, demonstrating this tiny boat can turn on a dime. Integration with an autopilot is coming, but until then [Barry] has a neat little boat puttering around a river. You can check out a video of that below.


10 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Autonomous Kayaks

  1. Kayaks are inherently barely stable (and not self-righting) in order to provide maneuverability. Barry has a whole world of righting moment/stability calculations waiting in the shadows for working in actual river conditions.

    1. I think he might get away with it a bit up to moderately brisk conditions due to all his equipment being on or below the waterline. Hasn’t got an 80lb Torso flopping around on top. However, bets are off when that mass isn’t available to offset stronger winds waves and current.

  2. Rocky shores generally go hand in hand with strong currents or waves, so while that’s exciting for the adrenaline seeker that’s going to be hell on the autopilot of a ballastless, short length, skegless craft. Battery life will suffer as it tries to stay on course.

    The idea seems to still be in its infancy. I’m very much interested in what type of missions they’re initially going to use this for as I think that would help focus them on the obstacles in their way.

  3. Terrible choice in boats for most every condition (a playboat like that is not very efficient). I’d say a larger boat with a skeg and preferably a SOT design would be preferable. With the SOT design it won’t sink if it gets flipped, it has a little more weight so won’t be at the mercy of the wind, and you can store all the electronics, motors and batteries inside body of the craft which usually has a waterproof access hatch to get to the inside.

    With a 12-14ft SOT style craft you could put 80+lbs of gear inside and still have a very stable, easy to maneuver craft.

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