The two best days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy it, and the day they sell it. At least, that’s the common saying among people who actually spend money to buy a boat. [saveitforparts], on the other hand, looks like he’s going to have many more great days on this boat than that since he cobbled it together nearly for free, and he won’t even need to purchase any fuel for it since it runs on solar power.
The build starts with [saveitforparts] heading out to a literal pile of boats in his yard, unearthing an old single-person sailboat, and then fixing the major problems with its hull. With a new coat of red paint, the focus turns to the drivetrain. Propulsion is handled by an electric trolling motor found at an auction for $8 and is powered by an off-the-shelf battery bank provided by a sponsor of his channel. A pair of solar panels (which were traded for) fitted to outriggers keep the battery bank topped off, and there’s plenty of energy left over with this setup to charge drone batteries and other electronics while out on the lake.
[saveitforparts] reports that the single-passenger solar boat is remarkably stable on the water and fairly quick at full speed thanks to its light weight. He even hypothesizes that it could be fished from. The only thing not particularly stable was towing it to the lake, as the rough roads and permanently-attached solar panel outriggers weren’t particularly congruent with each other. If you’re looking for something similar to carry a few passengers, though, have a look at this much larger version.
With the summer months nearly upon us, many are dreaming of warm afternoons spent floating on a quiet lake. Unless you’re [Kolins] anyway. Apparently his idea of a good time is controlling a full-sized inflatable canoe not from onboard with a pair of oars, but from the shore with a RC transmitter.
Of course, as the video after the break shows, just because the canoe is powered by a remotely operated electric trolling motor doesn’t mean it can’t still carry human occupants. In fact, with the addition of a Matek F405-Wing flight controller running the rover variant of ArduPilot, the boat can even take you on a little tour of the lake while you kick back and relax.
We like that this project took the path of least resistance wherever possible. Rather than trying to spin up his own custom propulsion unit, and inevitably dealing with the challenge of waterproofing it, [Kolins] built his system around a commercial trolling motor. A clever servo mechanism physically turns the motor in much the same way a human operator would, while the speed is controlled with a suitably beefy ESC from Traxxas placed between the motor and its lead-acid battery.
It doesn’t look like there’s been any permanent mechanical or electrical changes made to the motor, which makes the whole thing a lot easier to replicate. We’ve talked in the past about the relative rarity of low-cost robotic watercraft, so a “bolt-on” propulsion module like this that can turn a cheap inflatable boat into an autonomous platform for research and experimentation is very interesting.
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.
Now that Spring is upon us, it’s time to get out the kayaks, canoes and row boats. As fun as paddling around a lake may be, after a long winter of sitting inside our arms are not up to that task. Well, [comsa42] has a solution to that problem. He’s made a quick-attaching trolling motor setup for his canoe and documented the process along the way.
[comsa42] started with a run of the mill canoe. Although he wanted a trolling motor option, he didn’t want to permanently modify the canoe. He started by making a wooden beam that spans the width of the canoe and overhangs on one side. The beam was notched out to securely fit over the lip of the canoe and a couple bolts and washers were used to clamp the beam to the canoe. This beam is just a few inches behind the rear seat so that the motor is at a comfortable position for the person steering.
The electric trolling motor is attached to this beam. To power the trolling motor, [comsa42] wired up two 12v deep cycle marine batteries in parallel. He installed them in a recycled wooden case to protect the batteries from the elements or occasional splash.
Hackaday regular [Berto] is always looking for new ways to get around, and wrote in to share his most recent creation, an amphibious bicycle.
He bought an off-the-shelf inflatable boat and constructed a rig that allows him to stably mount the bike on it. Once [Berto] comes across a body of water he wants to cross, all he requires is about 7 minutes time to inflate the boat and attach his bike. Using a modified version of his electric drill-based trolling motor we saw last year, the Amphi-cycle glides across the water effortlessly as demonstrated by his assistant in the video below.
Right now the boat is propelled solely by the trolling motor and a large lead-acid battery. We would love to see the amphi-cycle powered by its rider, though we don’t know how that would affect the “one boat fits all” design [Berto] is aiming for.
The build is just a few pieces of wood, drill rod, some hardware and a prop. Definitely not the most complicated build. This isn’t the speediest motor ever when attached to a canoe, and isn’t meant to be a primary means of propulsion. That’s not a problem for this build – trolling motors aren’t designed to be fast or powerful. There’s no word on how much thrust [Berto]’s motor can put out, but it is a nice bit of MacGyverism to build a boat motor out of spare parts.
Check out the build walk though video after the break to see the motor in action.