The World’s First Autonomous Electric Cargo Ship Is Due To Set Sail

Maritime shipping is big business, with gigantic container ships responsible for moving the vast majority of the world’s goods from point A to points B, C and D. Of course, there’s a significant environmental impact from all this activity, something ill befitting the cleaner, cooler world we hope the future will be. Thus, alternatives to the fossil fuel burning ships of old must be found. To that end, Norwegian company Yara International has developed a zero-emission ship by the name of Yara Birkeland, which aims to show the way forward into a world of electric, autonomous sea transport. 

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Homebrew Sounder Maps The Depths In Depth

For those who like to muck around in boats, there’s enough to worry about without wondering if you’re going to run aground. And there’s really no way to know that other than to work from charts that show you exactly what lies beneath. But what does one do for places where no such charts exist? Easy — make your own homebrew water depth logger.

Thankfully, gone are the days when an able seaman would manually deploy the sounding line and call out the depth to the bottom. [Neumi]’s sounding rig uses an off-the-shelf sonar depth sounder, one with NMEA, or National Marine Electronic Association, output. Combined with a GPS module and an Arduino with an SD card, the rig can keep track not only of how much water is below it, but exactly where the measurement point is. The whole thing is rigged up to an inflatable dinghy which lets it slowly ply the confines of a small marina, working in and out of the nooks and crannies. A bit of Python and matplotlib stitches that data together into a bathymetric map of the harbor, with pretty fine detail. The chart also takes the tides into account, as the water level varies quite a bit over the four hours it takes to gather all the data. See it in action in the video after the hop.

There’s something cool about revealing the mysteries of the deep, even if they’re not that deep. Want to go a little deeper? We’ve seen that before too.

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Boat Brings Bathers Beverages

Chilling in the pool is great, but what a drag to have to get out to grab a cold brew. [Alister] had his eye on a commercial drink float, but the company was out of business. But 3D printing, of course, comes to the rescue in this video, also embedded below.

The payload amounts to four bottles and some snacks. Brushless thrusters allow the bartender to steer the little robot around the pool to deliver libations.

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Printed Catamaran

If you want to send some instruments out on the lake or the ocean, you’ll want something that floats. Sure, if you need to be underwater, or if you can fly over the water there are other options, but sometimes you want to be on the surface. For stability, it is hard to beat a catamaran — a boat with two hulls that each support one side of a deck. If that sounds like the ocean sensor platform of your dreams, try printing the one from [electrosync].

The boat looks super stable and has a brushless motor propulsion system. The design purpose is to carry environmental and water quality monitoring gear. It can hold over 5 kg of payload in the hull and there’s an optional deck system, although the plans for that are not yet included in the STL files.

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Shoot Above The Waves On This E-Foil Made From A Rifle Case

So you say you want to fly above the waves on an electric hydrofoil, but you don’t have the means to buy a commercial board. Or, you don’t have the time and skills needed to carve a board and outfit it with the motor and wing that let it glide above the water. Are you out of luck? Not if you follow this hackworthy e-foil build that uses a waterproof rifle case as the… hull? Board? Whatever, the floaty bit.

If you haven’t run across an e-foil before, prepare to suddenly need something you never knew existed. An e-foil is basically a surfboard with a powerful brushless motor mounted on a keel of sorts, fairly far below the waterline. Along with the motor is a hydrofoil to provide lift, enough to raise the board well out of the water as the board gains speed. They look like a lot of fun.

Most e-foils are built around what amounts to a surfboard, with compartments to house the battery, motor controller, and other electronics. [Frank] and [Julian] worked around the difficult surfboard build by just buying a waterproof rifle case. It may not be very hydrodynamic, but it’s about the right form factor, it already floats, and it has plenty of space for electronics. The link above has a lot of details on the build, which started with reinforcing the case with an aluminum endoskeleton, but at the end of the day, they only spent about 2,000€ on mostly off-the-shelf parts. The video below shows the rifle case’s maiden voyage; we were astonished to see how far and how quickly the power used by the motor drops when the rifle case leaves the water.

Compared to some e-foil builds we’ve seen, this one looks like a snap. Hats off to [Frank] and [Julian] for finding a way to make this yet another hobby we could afford but never find time for.

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Traffic Jam In The Suez Canal; Container Ship Run Aground

A vital shipping lane has been blocked in Egypt, as a 220,000 ton container ship, the MV Ever Given, became lodged sideways in the channel Tuesday morning local time. The Suez Canal, long a region of trading and strategic importance, has been blocked to travel in both directions as authorities make frantic efforts to free the ship.

Live tracking shows a flurry of activity around the stricken vessel. If you find yourself transiting the Suez Canal next week, don’t do this. Everyone’s patience is going to be pretty thin.

The Ever Given is carrying goods from China to Rotterdam, making a northward journey through the canal. The exact reason for grounding remains unclear, though such incidents are often due to mechanical malfunction or navigational errors in the tight confines of the channel. Like many important waterways, the Suez Canal requires transiting vessels to take on a pilot. This is to ensure that ships passing through the canal have someone onboard with experience of navigating the 673-foot wide passage. However, incidents still happen, as with huge container ships, there is minimal room for error.

A flotilla of tugboats dispatched to the area have begun working to free the ship, working in concert with excavators on the banks of the canal. This photo taken by [Julianne Cona] at the incident shows the sheer scale of the problem — with the excavator digging at the bow a tiny speck in the shadow of the gigantic ship.

We’re sure shipping firms and residents of the Netherlands are eager for a quick resolution, whether its to avoid costly delays or simply to get those online purchases sooner. If you live near the canal and want to keep an eye on what’s happening, you could always grab a software-defined radio and track things in real time. Alternatively, watch the progress on Vessel Finder. And, if you’ve got strong opinions on the proper procedure for navigating the Suez Canal, sound off in the comments!

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.

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