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.

electric canoe

Canoeing Sans Paddles. Yes, It Is Possible

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.

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Amphi-Cycle Lets You Ride The Trails, The Waves, And Back Again

amphi-cycle

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.

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Engine Hacks: Electric Drill Made Into A Trolling Motor

We knew our engine hacks theme would come down to an argument over the difference between “a motor” and “an engine” so after much deliberation, name calling, restraining orders, and a duel we’re happy to put up [Berto]’s DIY trolling motor made out of an electric drill. The project is probably inspired by [Berto]’s collapsible amphibious e-scooter that used the same electric drill propulsion setup.

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.

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