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Virtuabotix is heading for the high seas!

Project by the SCOUT Team
SCOUT: The Autonomous Transatlantic Boat

SCOUT is not your average boat in more ways than one. Designed and built by a team of 5 college
students, SCOUT is a 13 ft. autonomous boat designed to cross the Atlantic. SCOUT is built using carbon fiber, is powered by the sun, and is controlled by two on-board Arduino Megas pre-programmed to help keep her on track and collect a variety of data as she makes the Atlantic crossing early this summer.

The SCOUT project started in a garage late one night (while working on an experimental surfboard) in 2009. Two friends (and current SCOUT team members) proposed the idea to build a boat that would cross the Atlantic autonomously. The team has been at work ever since (for better or worse.) The project started with SCOUT 1, a small 3 ft. version that was used as a proof of concept. Immediately we knew that we needed to scale the boat up to increase the solar efficiency. Quite a bit of learning happened over the next few years as the team constructed and often caused the destruction of SCOUT’s (2, 3, and 4). Our final version has incorporated all of the developments we have learned about on the way. For example, some of the earlier SCOUT’s had a flat deck due to ease of construction, but on our final version the deck is tilted about 7 degrees to shed water, help improve solar panel efficiency, and help SCOUT right herself in case of capsize. In addition, we have included a host of on-board sensors so we can monitor data such as boat speed, water temperature, pH, salinity, barometric pressure, and sea state.

To get an idea of sea state, we’re using the Virtuabotix 3 Axis Accelerometer. While we initially wanted to measure wave height with an Accelerometer or IMU and send that data back over our Quake 9612 transceiver, we found that there were so many other things that we needed to work on for the project that we couldn’t justify the time commitment it would take to properly measure the waves. We figured that it’d be better to have some bit of data to return about the state of the sea rather than none at all, so we decided to just average all of the readings from the Accelerometer (with acceleration in any direction returning a positive value) and transmit that sum every time we make a data transmission.

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