BlueRobotics BlueBoat LTE for Japan

BlueRobotics was kind enough to send me one of their BlueBoats recently and I suspect that it is going to be a very popular frame with all kinds of Universities and other professional users.

For users in Japan (where I’m based) below are instructions on how the BaseStation telemetry can be replaced easily and cheaply with a 4G/LTE telemetry module so that it is legal for use in Japan.

What to buy

Physical setup

  • Install the SIM card into the LTE Module
  • Connect the LTE module to one of the Navigator autopilot’s USB ports using the USB extension cable
  • Optionally temporarily power on the BlueBoat and confirm the LTE module’s LED turns green
  • Mount the LTE module to the inside of the hull using strong double-sided tape. It would be better to mount the module higher but at least where LTE signal strength is strong, this location worked for me.

ZeroTier Setup Part 1

  • Create a ZeroTier account (see https://www.zerotier.com/)
  • Create a new ZeroTier network, record the Network ID
  • On the PC:
    • Install ZeroTier
    • Start the ZeroTier App
    • On bottom right tray, select orange ZeroTier icon, Join new network, paste in Network ID

BlueBoat Setup

  • Connect to the BlueBoat’s Wifi (try http://blueos-wifi.local/)
  • From left menu select Extensions and click on orange ZeroTier option (installation will take a few minutes)
  • From left menu select ZeroTier Manager, in “Join new network” field enter Network ID (see above) and click “Join”
  • Enable MAVLink Server:
    • From top right menu click on the Pirate mode icon (smiling Buddha face), Enable Pirate Mode
    • From left menu select “MAVLink Endpoints”
    • From “GCS Server Link” section move blue slider to right

ZeroTier Setup Part 2

  • Log-onto ZeroTier and open https://my.zerotier.com/
  • Click on Network from list
  • Scroll down to “Members” area add Names 0and check “Auth?” column beside entry for PC and BlueBoat.
  • Copy BlueBoat’s IP address

Connecting with Mission Planner

  • Ensure PC has internet access
  • Start the ZeroTier App, from bottom right tray, connect to network
  • Open a web browser and enter BlueBoat IP address, BlueOS should appear
  • Open Mission Planner, it should automatically connect. If it does not, from top-right drop-down select UDPCI, enter BlueBoat IP address, port:14550

Connecting with QGC

  • Use the same procedure as Mission Planner but if QGC does not automatically connect

    • Select top-left icon, Application Settings, Comm Links
    • Add, Name: BlueBoat, Type:UDP, Port:14550, Server Address:, Add Server, OK

It is also quite easy to setup live video streaming although I did not do that for the video above. Perhaps in a future blog I’ll provide details on that.

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Thanks for the instruction,
What is it about the bluebox that makes it not able to be used in japan?

I also believe the boat will be very popular, it is truly amazing how little boat you get for so much money with most of the usv companies, so its refreshing to see something less greedy. The HyDrone for example is $28k Aud for the two hulls and and basic rc control (brushless esc and a taranis tx) or you can get the ‘autonomous box’ for an extra $22k. So for $50000 you can get what can be done with ardurover yourself with no coding experience for $2k. So really you’re just paying 48000 for a pair of moulded plastic hulls.

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Hi @Scott_Nunan,

The major issue with the BlueBoat is the telemetry system (including the BlueBoat BaseStation) isn’t certified for use in Japan. It could probably be certified but it would take months and cost about $20k and possibly the transmitter would need to be weakened a bit to comply with the laws.

Yes, it would be nice if AP and various manufacturers caused the cost of autonomous boats to come down. I suspect it will…

Well i see it as 90% of the value is the empty hulls, id buy a blue boat just to strip the gear out and install my own, the electronics are cheap, and the autonomy and controls are the easy bit, getting hulls manufactured is very hard and the usv companies wont sell the hulls they get made because that is their bread and butter

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the bluestation is just wifi, so configuring into Japan mode should work and compliant. I can show how to setup this.

@Scott_Nunan there start to be more small usv at small cost in the recent years, and ArduPilot is indeed in a lot of them.
In France, there is at least 3 companies selling small boats. I know that there is also 2 Chinese company selling small boat worldwide with AP inside.

But for now, AP is restraint to inland water and maybe a bit of costal sea. I have never seen it on sea, or at accessible cost

Yes AP is powering most of them including seafloor systems hydrone at $50000, that makes it even more of a joke, the software they are selling is opensource and free thanks to all the efforts of developers here, all the documentation provided means anyone can set it up with no programming experience and the electronic hardware is cheap. So its just the $100 plastic toy boat hulls that are the expensive bit. I dont really understand why mining and environmental companies are paying through the nose for what are essentially incredibly overpriced rc boats, or autonomous ones (with a $500 FC and GPS) for an extra $22000!

What kind of wifi hardware is in the blueboat? I see a metal cylinder in the pics with the rf plug going to the folding antenna.
I found that 2.4ghz standard power rc gear has a very short range on water and i ended up with higher power elrs to get 500m to work

that is mikrotik RBGrooveA-52HPn

This is amazing, I wasn’t aware of this system. Congratulations to Bluerobotics on doing something this nice at such an affordable price!

I was wondering, how feasible is this for open sea? Do they provide some information about the maximum conditions ( wave height, etc ) the boat would endure in open sea?

Thanks for sharing it!

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@david_sastre,

Yes, it’s a great boat. There are tons of specifications listed in the “Technical Details” section on the web page but nothing about maximum wave height. It’s completely water tight so I think it would have no problems with waves at least 1m high… probably more. With a max range of 220km I think it would have no troubles crossing the English Channel.

FYI @williangalvani.

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If we are ready to lost one, I can try to send an unit accross the channel and have Peter or Matt get it on the other side ! I am not at the shortest side but it should works with a big battery, AIS, sat comms and maybe a solar pannel !

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We attempted a long-range mission a short while back, with one of the prototypes. We made a small series of stories on Instagram documenting it.
We used a solar panel and a lua script for managing the power budget. It was a cool experiment!

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If you are interested in empty hulls, you will find this post very interesting!

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You can see the mission history of that long range mission @williangalvani mentioned here. It flipped in ~5m seas at 6-10 second period after a soak-test period doing laps just north of Catalina Island. Note this was well over a year before the vehicles release - development was a long process, hulls aren’t easy! The hatches are much improved in particular compared to this early, adapted prototype.
image

I’ve loved working with the BlueBoat, and find it does just fine in 2-3 m seas and strong 10 m/s+ winds. The included flag is very necessary for long-range visibility, and it station keeps in loiter mode amazingly well! The Ping2 sonar can struggle in heavier seas (likely from bubbles/noise), and if taking it through breaking waves a somersault / flip-over is likely…I’ve been impressed with the results possible with fancier sonars!

This guide is super helpful, thanks @rmackay9 so much for sharing with the community!

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That would be pretty amazing. An alternative mission, arguably less risky, is to send it along the north coast of France to the north coast of Spain ( where I will be based for the next months ). We should have nicer LTE coverage on this route, and easier access in case of needing recovery. I also have a couple of rockblock iridium satellite modules around, we could use them for backup.

I am a bit worried about flip over though. Is there anything that could be done to mitigate it? like a big weight in a pole under water or something like that?

I would be willing to contribute to such a project, thank you @williangalvani for the inspiration! :slight_smile:

Bulb keel - Wikipedia , but that brings its own issues. If you need to be self righting, you may be better of with a keelboat ( maybe with bilge keels to keep it upright out of the water) than a catamaran

yep this route would have less boat in it, but I wouldn’t count of LTE along the french west coast, I would be surprised to have coverage when not near a big touristic city and at sufficient distance to not suffer from waves, tides and coastal currents.

advantage on the Channel is that some route are quite easy and fast.

We could probably open a working document to do some plan and budget if some people are open to work on this. With this we could try to get some sponsorship or try crowfunding

I will try to navigate into the Channel this summer (near Saint Malo for those that know). For now, the weather isn’t great.

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Thank you, I am very little familiarized with nautical world, and I kept reading those hints, very interesting!

I am thinking, maybe just placing a pole or two, with a floating mass on top of the deck, not allowing it to fully flip over ( It would remain little past 90 degrees because of the floating mass touching water ), plus a small bulb keel, could give it quite a lot of flip over resistance right?

I understand the logic of a non catamaran if this is important, but a catamaran like this has great advantages I think, in the sense of how easy and flexible is to implement additional hardware or sensors versus a smaller/non catamaran boat.

Anyway, thank you very much for the insight!

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Good point. It is a shame, I really wanted to see the epic arrival of it at northern Spain. Maybe the second mission! :slight_smile: . I am still interested on the adventure nonetheless, and I could help donating that iridium satellite receiver. I tested them in the past for a similar project ( on land, not in water ) and they are good to receive updates for as frequent as each 25 seconds or so, which is very nice for this kind of platform, and in open sea in that area it will have coverage all the time, I am sure.

We could also setup something so people can follow the mission real time, telemetry, etc. I could help on that part as well.

I checked and the distance between coast to coast is between 240 and 34 km, so it should be very doable for this boat! If you end up preparing that document let me know! It would be very cool.

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