Trying to build a DIY autonomous sailing boat.

Recently I have joined this community. However, I am not working on building a UAV but a DIY autonomous sailing boat. It might not fly but such a boat can use the technology developed for UAVs.

With a lot of help from a good friend I have been able to design a small sailing boot made from PVC, which has no electronics in it, yet. It only sails in one direction :D.

The reason we are building it from scratch and haven’t bought a RC boot is because we want to make it as cheap and accessible as possible. The little PVC boat is designed very generic or modular. In that way every one who is interested in building one can adjust the size or the position of the parts as they wish to. Anyway you can see the boat and how it is made here. It is an instructable.

Our next step is towards make an autonomous sailing is to make the current boat remote controlled. I think the main requirements for this step are that it should stay modular and waterproof. So the simplest idea is to put all the servos in a waterproof lunchbox, make very small holes to attach the servos to the moving parts, using thin ropes. And finally find a way to attach the box to the boat.

I will post the PVC RC boat as soon as I have successfully tested it. Nevertheless I would be very glad to receive tips or examples, which can help me to make the next step.

I’ll keep you updated. And please don’t hesitate to give feedback.



E-mail me when people leave their comments –

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

Join diydrones


  • I ordered it direct from US digital.

    It was hard to accept paying more for a rotary encoder than for a GPS.

  • Nice litlle thing. Where did you by the ma3.

  • Sure this is the wind vain I am using.


    The sensor I am using is a US Digital MA3  I started with a multi turn POT but the friction on the shaft was too much.  I think this will work much better, although I have not tested it on the watter yet.  (To many hobbies to little time)

    I am still poking at the autonomous boat thing now and then although progress has been painfully slow these last few years.

  • I have a project for makin a IOM onemeter a autonomous sailing. The wind vane is my next task. Some pictures would be nice.

  • Its nice to see some more people working on automated sailing.  There are a few of us around here that are putting AP on the water.

    Harald Molle did a grate series of blogs on his boat, although it is not a sail boat.

    Here are some sail boat related posts that have come up.  Pierre Lannoy here. TireSandals post, and James Goppert is also working on some stuff.  

    I also am working on a autonomous sailor. I Hope to have an update to post soon now that the ice is off the lake.  Personally I don't worry too much about waterproofing stuff. My gear is inside my hull and would get wet if the boat capsizes or sinks.  So far things have stayed dry.  Water is not always the end of the world for electronics.  If things get wet pull the batteries as soon as you can, and let it dry out before powering up.  You will be surprised what you can get away with.  I have a I-Paq that my son used to watch Thomas the Train with in the bathtub.  After careful drying it still works.

  • Thank you for the feedback, tips and encouragements.

    @ Ellison: actually there is already a boat which uses the APM. I think it is built by a biologist. However it is driven by a electrical motor. Here is a link if you are interested. And I really like to rig both the sails and the rudder. Rigging the sails is my biggest challenge at this point.

    @ Andreas: great tip, It would be actually really convenient if I manage to implement electromagnets. Today I am going to see how I can do that. Ill keep you updated. Btw, also thanks for the water proof servo's. However I still have to find a to make the batteries and the RC receiver waterproof. That is why I think electromagnetism idea is very promising. 

  • Very neat.  So are you planning to just rig the rudder or the sails as well?  It would be interesting to see how the APM can be made to perform the tacks.

  • Very Interesting.... Want to see the progress.

  • Admin

    Good project. keep it going and keep us posted too. tnx

This reply was deleted.