We're building a solar powered boat that can navigate its way across the Atlantic Ocean using only sensors, previously programmed commands, and information that it can gather along the way.
The planned destination is Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. This is where Columbus left from on his second journey to the New World.
Scout is designed to roll back to its operational position when overturned. Its has a keel with weight on the bottom that ensures the stability of the vessel. If it flips over, it'll just right itself and keep going.
Scout is 12.8 feet long,
25 inches wide,
weighs a bit under 140 pounds.
will travel at a cruising speed at between 2 and 4 knots.
will relay telemetry information via Iridium 9612 every hour
will be trackable at WheresScout.org
If the boat successfully makes the crossing, yes. The previous record for the length of time spent on the water by an autonomous surface vessel trying a transatlantic trip was set by the Pinta in 2010. The Pinta is suspected to have capsized or have been hit and sunk by another boat after numerous system failures. The Pinta sailed for over four hundred hours but made it only 61 miles off the coast of Ireland.
Photo by colinsauze
Also, one needs to understand that there are a few different classes of boat that are trying to make this journey (or go even farther). Scout is essentially an electric motorboat. The Pinta (and all of the other Microtransat boats) are sailboats. The differences are significant, and each type of vessel has a unique set of challenges associated with it.
As far as we can tell, yes.
Scout's hull is constructed with a form of strip planking which produces a very light and strong structure. See our construction page for details about the build.
From the Microtransat.org website:
Q: Do the boats have to include any kind of autonomous collision-avoidance system to prevent collision with other floating objects?
A: No you don't have to. The International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLGREGs) define a vessel as carrying passengers or cargo, it is our understanding that this doesn't class an autonomous boat as a vessel and therefore exempts it from these rules. There is no current legal status for autonomous boats, from what we can tell in speaking to the IMO and both the UK and French coastguards it would be classed as a buoy not a vessel. By keeping the boats length at 4 metres most vessels wouldn't even realise a collision had taken place. Additionally we recommend each competitor carry a radar reflector, make their boat highly visible and have clear warnings that it is unmanned. Competitors are free to implement collision avoidance if they wish (but are not required to by the rules) and to make use of technologies such as RADAR or AIS (Automatic Identification System).
The above outlines our thinking for this project as well; no collision avoidance system would be feasible for us to use, and the tiny chances of encountering another vessel make this something that we don't worry about.
We found an interesting study by the University of Maine that examined the effectiveness of radar reflectors on sea kayaks. We don't believe that there's an effective way for us to mount a RADAR reflector on Scout, and even if we could, it doesn't seem that it would be very effective.
We have always been into building things- more on this in the crew page. So far, the projects that we've worked on have been made by many other people. This will be the first project that we do that hasn't been done by others before us. We love working on boats, and I don't think that any of us could be happier with the nature of this project.
The cost of the project depends on several things: 1) whether we get what we want and 2) redundancy and performance expectations.
The mechanical components have been a topic of significant conversation as they will need to withstand rough conditions, corrosion, and operate reliably.
David is working this. The way that he's handling it will consider how many more hours it has until sunrise (using the GPS time data of course), use "brightness" data gathered from light sensors from previous days to predict how much sun it will get, and then find how much power it can afford to use while still holding a safety margin. To answer a common question: yes, it will be moving overnight. We've accounted for that in our design of the systems.
We didn't want to spend a bunch of money on a project that would do something that only engineers would think is cool (the average person would not see a five foot long boat going around in circles in a pond very cool). The transatlantic mission gets everyone excited; many people are very interested in the project once they hear about it, and really want to see it succeed.
It might seem that we should be using a sailboat to do the crossing. After all, you wouldn't have to power much- the sail gives it enough energy to move forward, and you'd only need solar panels for the onboard electronics. However, we've looked at the landscape of robotic boats so far and realized that we probably wouldn't be able to do it, or that we'd have a better shot doing it this way.
As anyone who owns a sailboat knows, when you fix something on a sailboat, something else will break. We've been breaking and fixing things on boats for years; It's difficult to "keep it simple" when the boat would be exposed to such a variety of conditions. There are three main concerns to building such an animal:
-It is physically more complex; more forces on it (from the wind), easier to capsize, difficult to stow the sail in adverse conditions, wind is shifty near the surface of the water in such large waves
-More complex programming- upwind sailing, tacking, etc.
We've decided to keep this project simple. What we're doing is building a hull. There will be a motor in the hull that turns a propeller. The propeller will make the boat go forward. The batteries will get charged by the sun. If it's cloudy, the electronics compensate. The electronics will tell it where to go and will be simple and not a pain to program. And hopefully, it will work.