Autonomous Boat to Cross the Atlantic Ocean

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


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: 

Project website:

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  • @RPM

    The boat will reach the shore one day, but it can take a very long time. There is a contact information on several visible places on the boat. Yes, there were crazy storms before the boat stopped transmitting. Not sure if it has something to do with Matthew, but I know there were cyclones very close to the boat.

    @Jack Crossfire

    The likelihood of encountering an obstacle in the ocean is very small, I have just put that sign because everyone else did it since the year 2006. ;) However, icebergs around Newfoundland during April-July can be an issue.

    @Gary McCray

    Powerboats and submarines have STRONG motors. The propellers would cut through the seaweed and maybe fishing lines. With a boat of size max. 2.4 metres / 8 feet (as required by the Microtransat rules and safety regulations), you can't get more than 200W solar power. Then the thrusters are weak.

    My new design is a self-righting trimaran with a rigid sailwing. I got advice from professional boat builders. It will be made from strong composites (carbon fiber/fiberglass/Kevlar). What will happen, we will see in 2017.

  • Hi Andy,

    For electric motor boats you are absolutely right, they actually have 2 Achilles heel's the motor and the prop.

    It would certainly be possible to design an open frame brushless motor that could survive in this kind of use, but with the possible exception of hugely expensive ROV motors nobody has actually done it yet, and the bearings are the main issue along with many of the failed attempts relying on motors that are definitely not designed to operate in sea water.

    The prop is also a significant issue and needs to be a seriously antifouling design.

    Most of the current attempts have just used ordinary props which will easily foul on sea weed let alone fishline or net. Possibly something more like current submarine propeller design.

    I definitely think sail is a possibility, but it's design is going to be significantly different from anything we have seen so far: flexible, rigid, semi rigid, impermeable or even possibly permeable.

    There are a lot of conflicting necessities and propulsion versus strength and antifouling considerations.

    This is a very interesting area right now, because so many design possibilities and necessities are currently not yet determined.

    Be really interesting to see what finally comes out on top.

    Best Regards,


  • The best obstacle avoidance system is a "keep clear" sign. 

  • Over the last years, I have been closely watching several attempts of crossing the ocean using solar power and thrusters. They had one common problem - the thrusters got jammed with seaweed or fishing lines. This is why I focused on a sailboat. Seacharger really surprised me. It would be interesting to find out whether this kind of design can deal with seaweed or they just had more luck than Scout Transatlantic, Solar Voyager, SolarSurfer... these projects were using thrusters and the thrusters failed within a relatively short time.

    Another important factor are ocean currents. Some ocean currents in the Atlantic are faster than a small solar-powered boat can travel. You can go in the direction of the main currents, but once the boat gets too far from the predefined path (it can happen during a storm or unusual weather conditions), it will hardly reach the correct destination. The hardest rule of the Microtransat Challenge is to reach the destination point within 25 km radius. It's to rule out boats that are driven primarily by the ocean currents.

    Yes, designing a robust sailboat is much harder than building a robust motorboat - a motorboat is just more compact. But once this problem is solved (if it can be solved), a sailboat will become better in many aspects including the speed.

  • Cool project, unfortunate that it turned into sea trash. Where was your intended destination? Remnants of hurricane Matthew came through and hit the island pretty hard around the same time it went dark it seems.

  • Definitely wish you the best of luck.

    There is one group that has successfully gone from California to Hawaii with a solar powered autonomous boat.

    And I thought this was an interesting concept for a wave powered one.

    Although I think this last design is flawed in that the wave module could become seriously problematic with it's long tether in a storm, also picking up weed and flotsam.

    Personally I would like to see if a wave powered boat could be designed that might be able to survive all conditions, then all you would need would be "solar" power for direction and communications.

    I am also skeptical that a conventional sail is a reasonable solution, way too much force generated in offshore storms and huge waves.

    Possibly rigid aerodynamic sail(s) (but not like current designs).

    Maybe, need something that looks more like a smooth torpedo, just with bulletproof solar panels on top and a smooth streamlined profile to shed seaweed and other flotsam.

    In any case, it is a hugely complicated undertaking to try and compensate for and survive all of the possible sea conditions and it will be interesting to see what finally evolves as the best vessel.

    Best Regards,


    SeaCharger Oceangoing Autonomous Boat - Home
    Home page of the SeaCharger oceangoing autonomous boat
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