Drone Boat Sails Seattle

Thanks to the availability of cheap, powerful autopilot modules, building small autonomous vehicles is now well within the reach of the average maker. [rctestflight] has long been an enthusiast working in this space, and has been attempting long range autonomous missions on the lakes of Washington for some time now. His latest attempt proved to be a great success. (Video, embedded below.)

The build follows on from earlier attempts to do a 13 km mission with an airboat, itself chosen to avoid problems in early testing with seaweed becoming wrapped around propellers. For this attempt, [Daniel] chose to build a custom boat hull out of fiberglass, and combine both underwater propellers and a fan as well. The aim was to provide plenty of thrust, while also aiming for redundancy. As a bonus, the fan swivels with the boat’s rudder, helping provide greater turn authority.

After much tuning of the ArduPilot control system, the aptly-named SS Banana Slug was ready for its long range mission. Despite some early concerns about low battery voltages due to the cold, the boat completed its long 13 km haul across the lake for a total mission length of over three hours. Later efficiency calculations suggests that the boat’s onboard batteries could potentially handle missions over 100 km before running out.

It goes to show that, even with an off-the-shelf autopilot and mapping solution, there’s still a huge amount of engineering that goes into any successful long-range mission, whether land, sea or air.

11 thoughts on “Drone Boat Sails Seattle

    1. Been there done that in 2008, except it was an UAV with autonomous GPS navigation and chainsaw engine flying cigarettes from Królewiec region and dropping them across Polish border. It was good money then but now around 2011 both military and border guard in Poland finally got their stuff together and it’s not worth the jail time anymore.

  1. I love watching RCTestFlight because he is such a do-er. I’m a perfectionist, so watching people that just get stuff done with duct tape and bubblegum gets me motivated to ignore the perfectionist part of my brain more often. Can’t wait to build my SnoCat with his kickstarter parts!!

  2. Such a wonderful build journal. Lots of learning experiences through choices that turned out suboptimal. Good callouts for the products and components used for others to leverage. Love the thoughtful video compositions, like where he’s driving his car and he’s got the video feed from the FPV on the boat and below it his car’s dash cam feed.

  3. It would be neat to have a world wide challenge to traverse the Atlantic using a solar powered boat with GPS for navigation and maybe WSPR for tracking. Limit the craft to something like 10kg weight. First place winner earns bragging rights.

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