The Ardupilot controlled transducer boat part 3

3689589361?profile=originalWith the help of several members of this community, I could make the prototype in the torpedo design work and I did a lot of measuring and mapping with it.

It went very well, so I decided to build an improved version of the sonar boat which you can see in the picture above.

But first I will share some impressions of my first boat. In the following picture you can see me with my "torpedo design" boat. 3689589386?profile=original



In the video below you can see the performance of the boat.

The ArduPilot worked very well and the speed, size and the operation range were satisfying. But the propulsion nozzle turned out to be very sensitive to sea plants. And in windy conditions with waves and in curves, it was rolling quite a lot. I measured a big lake with it as you can see in the Google Earth picture on the bottom of this page, but I decided to build a more stable boat.

So now I tell you about the Making of the improved boat:

The new boat should be able to carry more batteries, be more stable in the water, be faster and not be too much bigger. So I decided to build a small trimaran. I started to plan it with DELFTship which is for free and easy to use.

I also used NX to plan the space I needed in the hull as you can see in the pictures below:

3689589420?profile=original3689589526?profile=originalThe next step was the making of the positive mold. I could use the laser cutter of the Fablab in Aachen ( to cut the sections that were exported from DELFTship out of 3mm MDF.

3689589487?profile=originalAt home I glued everything together with hot glue and filled it with Styrodur that I cut before:

3689589441?profile=originalAfter a lot of grinding and filling, it looked like this:

3689589541?profile=originalAfter some more grinding and painting, I made a negative mold with plaster bandages to keep the costs low and painted it with 2K paint. After waxing the mold I could start with the glass fiber:

3689589562?profile=originalI used the following product and which worked very well:

The resin has a curing time of 40 min which makes it very easy to use. The result looked like this:

3689589607?profile=originalAfter equipping the hull it was ready for the water:

3689589670?profile=originalIn the following video you can see the making of the boat step by step:

Before letting the boat into the lakes I wanted to be able to find it after its work under any circumstance so I included an XBee 900 pro for a GPS-data link. Also I wanted to be able to manipulate the track of the boat by a joystick with the XBee, so I printed a case for a small remote control to include the XBee, a thumbstick, a small Arduino and other switches.

3689589587?profile=original3689589761?profile=original3689589632?profile=originalI am now able to switch between the XBee-controll and the ArduPilot with a multiplexer on board.

After that final step, I was ready for the next lakes.

After improving the ArduPilot parameters the trimaran performed very well. I could switch the boat on, put it into the water and have breakfast at home, before picking it up after several hours and it was always there. If the wind had blown it away, I could track it via the XBee and with the Earth Bridge, I could watch its position live on Google Earth.

In this Video you can see the performance of the boat in different conditions:

The following pictures will give you some impressions of the measuring:


In this last picture, you can see the work i have done so far with the boats and in the area, there will be many more lakes for measuring.

3689589784?profile=originalIf you have questions or suggestions just comment and I try to answer quick.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • You sir are truly thinking out of the box! 

    If you scaled this up 500% or so, made it solar and made it operable in open ocean, this could revolutionize what we know about the ocean. They could be equipped with a rotating light, and radio beacon for vessel avoidance. If made stable enough due to their wide body and low profile (CG) it could even possibly hold up in even the largest of oceanic weather (not to mention if you made them self-righting).

    Currently only about 5% of the ocean has been accurately mapped (IE, boat mounted Sonar.) The rest has been done via satellite, which can differ is much less accurate.

    If these units could cost ~$10k or less for a complete turn-key system, they cold be sold in tens or hundreds of thousands to research organizations (IE NOAA) and governments. These could essentially finish the job of mapping all the oceans in only a few years!

  • @ Antonie:

    I am doing it for the fun of it:-). I know these lakes very well and I love working with Arduino so this seemed to be a nice project.

    I use a Garmin Intelliducer. From 0 to 10 m it has a resolution of 0,1 m and from 10 to 300 m it has a resolution of 1 m. It has a serial output with NMEA 0183 with a boudrate of 4800 and it measures the depth and the temperature.

    For GPS I use a normal EM406 with no RTK but I am quite happy with the accuracy but I cant tell you any values. An Arduino collects the depth and location data and sends it to my XBee 900 pro. My computer can receive these strings with another XBee which i can connect to the rendering software drdepth for life rendering or to Earth Bridge for the integration into Google Earth.

    Unfortunately, drdepth is not available anymore. Are you planning to do bottom mapping with your boat? Can you recommend any software for the mapping?

    I spend a lot of time for the design and I am happy you like it. My first boat was ok but i wanted to build something to look at. Its not done yet but i am quite happy with it already.

    @ Scott:

    I use a simple 50 mm propeller and a simple rudder like this one:

    Its quite effective against water plants but if there are too many plants, they will get stuck in it. But the lakes I am using it in, there are not that many water plants.

    I thought about using a paddle wheel on this boat, but didnt have the time to realise it by now.

  • What propulsion system does the new boat use?

  • Moderator

    Great Job :) 

  • I forgot to ask, why are you doing this?

    Love the boat design. I'm building a 23 foot Carolina sportfisher - I love building boats....err, and others. The tri design is really cool.

    What accuracy(vertical) do you achieve with the system? Do you have a RTK GPS stashed under the canopy?

    Again, great work.


  • Just awesome - keep up the good work and keep us posted.

    A question or 2 if you do not mind.

    1. What sonar are you using?

    2. What capture method are you using for the sonar/gps readings.



  • Moderator

    Love it

  • Excellent ! Really great work !

  • Admin


    Nice project and well documented.

    I am building a similar water craft to survey ponds, canals, and small lakes here in southern Florida.

    I am using two .60 size model airplane pontoons with the navigation and support equipment mounted on a bridge linking the two pontoons. The wide stance between the pontoons provides good stability and minimizes roll.

    I am providing propulsion with two Johnson Mayfair 750GPH bilge pumps that have been converted to use a standard three blade propeller. The skid steering function works great to provide steering with this type of propulsion system.


    TCIII ArduRover2 Developer

This reply was deleted.