Pixhawk Boat Project for Large Area Mapping

The purpose of this project is to log sonar data of inland waters in order to increase the database of the GoFree Insight Genesis Social Map.

Craft Requirements:

1. Light Easy to Transport

2. Stable

3. Capable of speeds up to 10mph

4. Capable of running up to 10hrs non stop

5. Autonomous

6. Monitor progress remotely

7. Highly Visible (safety)

Project Progress:

Used the off-cuts of some old SurfSkis from a previous project to create a 2.9 meter trimaran design

Has a small enclosed console (removable for easy transport) to hold battery and electronics


Sonar logging is done with a Lowrance Elite7 CHIRP with a Airmar P66 transducer

Powered by a Yamaha 2hp 2-stroke outboard

Steering servo is via a vehicle wiper motor for torque using an old servo motor for potentiometer and output to a H-Bridge L298N.

Throttle is controlled by a heavy duty servo built  into the motor directly above the carb.

Radio - Spektrum DX6i DSM (old)

Receiver - Spektrum AR6200 with Satellite

Up to this point the craft goes pretty well while being controlled directly with the radio as can be seen in this video - 

AutoPilot Progress:

Or should I say "lack thereof" as I am now in 'unchartered territory' and the cry for "HELP!" echoes across this board for assistance.




Pixhawk PX4

Pixhawk Power module




External LED/USB

I2C extension bus

433MHZ Telemetry with 2.5DB Antenna

Receiver - Spektrum AR6200 satellite

Mission Planner (Laptop)

Pixhawk Main Outputs - #3 = rudder / #4 = throttle

Progress - 

Connected Pixhawk to Mission Planner 

Updated firmware

Calibrated Acc, Mag, Trans etc.

Completed Wizard - all green except for Arming of Autopilot

That is where I am now stuck.

Where do I go from here?

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    • Oh ok.

      Yes, it is the same baud as before.

      The first firmware I had was what I loaded via Mission Planner for Rover.

      I ordered the Pixhawk on-line, how would I know if it is a clone? 

      I had never heard of a Pixhawk or an ArduPilot before a couple of weeks ago.

      The problem came in after I attempted to load firmware via QGroundControl, and I think that was Rover too, but can't remember for sure.



  • Anybody know how to correct this problem? (Connect to Mission Planner after having this breakdown)

  • Oops!  While fiddling with GroundControl things went wrong and now it won't connect to Mission Planner. :(

  • Echoing the other two replies. It could be so many things. Suggest you make a check list and work your way down. If you are in New England area I could meet you. Been setting these up for years. Have houses and docks on the two largest rivers.

    My concern is there is no REVERSE to get out of tight spots. Also the prop will foul for many reasons.
    I suggest only a flat bottom, air boat engine config, with reversible engine. A retratable keel or rudder for tracking.

    Also suggest record and also sent back video in 4 directions for a 3D view for prosterity and for recovery.

    It would be much less evasive if it was all electric. The gas engine will disturb all kinds of plants, birds, and animals of all kinds, in inumeriable ways.

    Otherwise nice idea, but worry 1) how long the data is useful with the bottom shifting
    2) Or the data would cause grief to adventurers, their prey and the indigious life in the charted areas.

    Just brainstorming.
    • Hi OwlPic,

      Thank you for your input. 

      1- No need for reverse as the craft will be used for open water only.

      2- I will always be nearby on another craft carrying out other tasks for the day

      3- I would love to run it off a Torqeedo, but there just isn't a budget for it as this data is going to be open to the public for FREE

      4- The lakes that are being surveyed have heavy traffic on the weekend from all sorts of gas engine craft

      5- These are not rivers, so it would take decades, if not centuries to change - unless the dam wall is raised of course



  • Nice project.  Where do you live that you have zebras and old waveski's laying around?  ;)

    • I see you from the US bigkahuna. :-)

    • South Africa apparently.

  • John,  the rudder should be hooked up to output one and the throttle to output 3.  What version of rover are you using and can you post your parameter file.  The noise the pixhawk is making is the Failed to Arm tone.  It could be for a variety of reasons.


    David R. Boulanger

    • Hi David,

      It's all crashed now as it won't even connect to Mission Planner any longer after tinkering with GroundControl and it did a update of sorts there.

This reply was deleted.