Robots Everywhere – Robots at Sea!
Robots Everywhere has always had a focus on nautical robots and their use in survey and transportation. In a year of development, we went from ELAINE’s 8 foot precision to the RSV’s survey-quality 6 inch precision for coordinates and 0.5 inch precision for depth.
- eTrac RSV (Robotic Survey Vehicle)
- Helionaut I – Solar-powered Catamaran
- Helionaut II – Sail-by-wire Solar-powered Catamaran
Robots Everywhere built the entire software system which interfaces with Google Earth, via the NAVCOM AI, to both track and command the autonomous AI that controls the boat, for real-time survey results and route planning.
Development of this real-time tracking system involved integrating multiple GPS units, digital compasses, gyroscopes, and a control system that enabled the boat to steer autonomously, deal with obstacles and complete hydrographic surveys without human intervention.
eTrac engineering an Army Corp of Engineers contractor, presently uses this system on an autonomous survey boat near the Los Angeles Bay Area to obtain survey-grade precision measurements of sea and canal water depths to determine navigability.
eTrac RSV Images
This autonomous sailboat, which only uses battery power for its servos and computer, was originally created for team member Matteo Borri’s Senior Thesis at Saint Mary’s University, San Antonio, TX (B.S. in computer engineering/Spring 2007).
Using a solar panel to keep the battery topped charged and a separate battery to run an air propeller, this allowed the motor to be disconnected and let the sailboat move on wind power alone.
Helionaut I was a proof-of-concept to create a full-scale boat with the panels and motors available at a minimal cost. A salvaged catamaran hull was repaired and solar panels were added to maintain the charge on a lead-gel batter which, in turn, powered an outboard trolling motor
The Helionaut II in all configurations except the first used microcontroller power management functions on the motors in an attempt to maximize battery life, fine-tuning pilot input in the same way as fly-by-wire aircraft.
Helionaut II was created to explore improvements in efficiency and usability. Able to carry 3 passengers, it sports one motor per hull with a PWM driver to control its speed and direction. For steering, we first used a wired-in switchbox, then the controller for an RC aircraft, later a long-range RC using a packet radio, and finally a NAVCOM system using the same packet radio for telemetry and override.