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.

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  • I have undertaken a similar project to make an autonomous boat but I have no experience working with ardupilot and water or uavs, I had the following doubts would be great if you could solve them :
    1) Which is the H/W board that you are using from the ardupilot platform?
    2)Is the Arduino just there to interface sonar?
    3)Can you specify the module used to control the boat from your laptop and its range ? (I would wamt to know more about both the transmitter and receiver)?
    Pardon me if the questions are very basic but anyways Thanks
  • Hi Burkhard,

    first of all: Respect for this great achievement!

    However I have a question about a detail, its not about the actual topic, but more or less a side aspect:

    How did you get the model from delftship into reality? So you had a delftship model and inserted section plans. Then you printed these section plans. My first question is: How did add the section plans into your model with delftship? Would it be possible to get the files? How did you get this section plans from the screen into reality, you used a laser to cut it, right? Is it possible to cut these manually? How would one proceed if there is no fancy laser cutter availalbe? Print it on paper or just draw specific measured dots on the wood and cut it then manually?

    Any help would be much appreciated, since my actual topic is to design a hull, get sections plans and then finally build it. And I am struggling with the implementation.

    Greetings from and to Germany :-) ;-)

  • Hi BurkHard, 

    I found Pyhum a couple of months ago, but I forgot about this post. I haven't done any programming in python, but I wondering if you have checked it out. Just curious if you've heard about this.

    Python code to read, display, export and analyse Humminbird sidescan sonar data - dbuscombe-usgs/PyHum
  • Is it possible to get more information of the remote? 

    I will love to able to build one!

  • He Ben,

    I thought of using a side scanning sonar but i dont have a program to handle the data. I cant really give you any informations about that subject.

  • Thanks for the link to your project and your response, and there's all lot of really good info about how you set up your electronics for a standard type transducer. I'm digging through it right now!

  • Admin


    Burkhard is a pretty busy person and it took over two weeks for him to get back to me and I had pmed him.

    I suggest that you post your request for information in the ArduBoat User Group and also take a look at my RSV Project Link 



  • I'm looking to start a similar project, but with the specific purpose of doing smaller areas with photo realistic sonar by implementing side imaging. Have done any research on using a side scanning type of sonar, and if so could you direct me or provide me with any basic research and suggestions? Thank you very much for any help you could provide.

  • Gd. Burckhard,

    Awesome and very interesting project which you have realized!
    We intend to start up a similair project, meaning an autonomous sailing boat.

    We recently have finished our initial trial, with an ardurover. Which seemd to us morst easy to get acquintanced with the controls, hardware and sottware. Although since we're from profession a group of naval architects, we now like to make the step towards an autonomous boat.

    Question, what kind of hardware (servo's, autopilot, communication etc.) are you using? Do you maybe have a principle diagram, which you like to share?

    When you're having in return any question regarding naval architecture, you're always welcome.

  • Hi Burkhard.

    Awesome project! Where did you find the specification on the intelliducer? I am looking for at similar sonar unit for seafloor mapping around wrecks, but a resolution of 1m below 10m in simply not sufficient. Does the unit output digits below 10m?

    Best regards

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