Over the last few months, I have been busy building a fully autonomous sailboat that attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
It was initially launched from Newfoundland heading towards Ireland. Although the initial attempt was not successful, I've gained a lot of extremely valuable experience, and I am going to build another, more capable boat. You can find more details along with a tracking map on www.opentransat.com.
The base consists of a surfboard and aluminum profiles. It is balanced by a heavy keel with lead weights that would flip the boat back over in case it flips. All materials used should survive for years in the ocean. It is rather an experimental concept that can be easily modified to test various configurations. My next boat will be optimized for speed.
The primary power source is four LiFePo4 3.2V 36Ah cells that are being charged by a 100W solar panel. When the batteries are fully charged, the boat can work four days without any sunlight.
The boat reports its position via the Iridium satellite network using the RockBlock module and two additional SPOT trackers (Globalstar satellite network).
The main electronic components are sealed in a Pelican case. The Iridium satellite module, as well as GPS, are in a separate polycarbonate case for better signal reception.
There are plenty of sensors on board that tell us more about the condition of the boat, such as the humidity inside the waterproof housing, air temperature and water temperature. There is also a hacked action camera that is powered by the main source, and it is turned on by the Arduino controller for 30 seconds every hour. The video is recorded on a 128 GB uSD card.
Hopefully, I will recover the boat one day to see exactly what went wrong before proceeding to the next design. My next attempt will be most likely next year, but it depends mostly on the weather conditions (it's not a good idea to navigate the boat through icebergs or hurricanes). Crossing the Atlantic Ocean autonomously is quite a significant challenge. At the time of writing this post, nobody so far has ever attained this. I will keep you updated on this front!
The MicroTransat Challenge competition with the rules that my boat strictly follows is below: