Open Source Autopilot For Cheap Trolling Motors

Quiet electric trolling motors are great for gliding into your favorite fishing spot but require constant correction if wind and water currents are at play. As an alternative to expensive commercial GPS-guided trolling motors, [AlexAsplund] created Vanchor, an open source system for adding autopilot to a cheap trolling motor.

To autonomously control an off-the-shelf trolling motor, [Alex] designed a 3D printed steering unit powered by a stepper motor to attach to the original transom mount over the motor’s vertical shaft. A collar screwed to the shaft locks the motor into the steering unit when the motor is lowered. The main controller is a Raspberry Pi, which hosts a WiFi hotspot and web server for control and configuration using a smartphone. Using navigation data from an e-compass sensor and a marine GPS chart plotter, it can hold position, travel in a specified direction, or follow a defined route. [Alex] is also planning to add the option of using a GPS module instead of a commercial plotter.

For an estimated total of $300, including the motor, this seems like a viable alternative to commercial systems. Of course, it might be possible to add even more features by integrating the open source ArduRover autopilot, as we’ve seen [rctestflight] do on multiple autonomous vessels. You can also build your own open source chart plotter using OpenCPN, which rivals commercial offerings.

14 thoughts on “Open Source Autopilot For Cheap Trolling Motors

      1. Interested as well, I’ve been gather hardware to start a similar project. I’m good with mechanical & electronics, but I’m not a programmer. That would be my bottleneck. You’ve already accomplished everything I was planning. Well done.

        Your site is inactive. Any word on when it will be working?

        Thank You

  1. Its a great idea. I am a marine tech and used to mentor the high school robotics team.
    Its very possible to run with this idea. Its open source so you can add features and tweak the commands.
    Honestly, can’t wait to try it

  2. Absolutely fantastic! Very interested in plans and next steps. Hope my limited skills will still let me give this a shot. Let me know how I might help. I’m a business consultant and a fisherman. Happy that this could be a little upsetting to the trolling motor companies. Most of the difference between a trolling motor that cost a couple hundred and a couple thousand dollars is software driven features. Kudos!

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