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 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.

7 thoughts on “Ambitious Hackerboat Project Still Aiming High

  1. Thank you for the write up! We’ve had another test since then, about a week and a half ago, and we fixed the navigation problem. Our rudder was backwards, which meant that it tended to steer a course 180 degrees out from intended. I should have an actual blog post up about it this weekend.

    1. I can’t imagine testing something like this in open water (or even in a big lake) without having a remote override to take back control if the autonomous system starts misbehaving.

      1. Yup, that’s me driving the boat with the remote. Our waypoint navigation wasn’t working right on that test, so I am driving it back to the dock. We also use the remote for launch and docking, since making those operations autonomous is a trickier problem.

  2. I like to daydream about building something similar that navigates the great lakes (because they are much closer to me than is the ocean). One thing I can’t get past is the batteries. I would feel bad about adding a couple of lead acid batteries to the environment if it sank. I was thinking Nickel-Iron might be ok, I can’t imagine a bit of nickel and iron being a problem although my chemistry is not good enough to know just how poisonous and/or persistent the electrolyte is. Also, with it’s high discharge rate would they even function well enough?

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