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 preccision for depth.
- eTrac RSV (Robotic Survey Vehicle)
- Helionaut I – Solar-powered Catamaran
- Helionaut II – Sail-by-wire Solar-powered Catamaran
Robotseverywhere.net 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 realtime tracking system involved integrating multiple GPSs, digital compasses, gyros, and a control system that enabled the boat to steer autonomously, and complete surveys and deal with obstacles.
This platform is now used by an autonomous survey boat in the Bay Area and outside Los Angeles by a Corps of Engineers contractor (eTrac engineering) to achieve survey-grade precision in measuring sea and canal water depths to determine navigability.
eTrac RSV Images
I built an autonomous sailboat for my Senior’s thesis at Saint Mary’s University, San Antonio, TX (B.S. in computer engineering/Spring 2007).
This sailboat only uses battery power for its servos and computer. We used a solar panel to keep the battery topped up, and a separate battery to run an air propeller. This allowed us to disconnect the motor demonstrate the sailboat’s ability to move on wind power alone.
The Helionaut 1 was a proof of concept to determine whether it was feasible to build a full-scale boat with the panels and motors available.
This project came about when I found a catamaran hull that could be repaired. Solar panels keep a lead-gel battery charged; it in turn powers an outboard trolling motor.
The Helionaut 2 in all configurations except the first used a microcontroller to perform power management functions on the motors in an attempt to maximise battery life, fine-tuning pilot input in the same way as fly by wire aircaft.
This second solar-powered catamaran was built with the aim of improving efficiency and usability. This boat carries three people and has one motor per hull with a PWM driver to control its speed and drection; steering the craft could be acomplished by means of a wired-in switchbox at first, then a RC aircraft remote control, a long-range RC using a packet radio, and finally a NAVCOM system using the same packet radio for telemetry and override.