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DeSET long distance drone boat first test


This is the first test of a new long distance mapping boat for the DeSET project which itself is part of a larger global initiative to map the depth of the entire sea floor by 2030. My team aims to increase the use of autonomous “drone boats” in this effort by building prototypes that can follow alongside manned boats or go off on their own.

This prototype is built by AttracLab and features:

  • Hex CubeGold autopilot running ArduPilot Rover-4.0
  • 1.2hp gasoline engine controlled by two servos (one for steering, one for throttle) which are inside the water proof case mounted on the top of the boat
  • RichenPower generator (not used in this test)

Some of the things we learned during the test:

  • top speed is 2.8m/s (10km/h). I hope we can increase this to 4m/s by increasing its power to 2hp (the legal limit in Japan) which should allow the boat to plane making it more maneuverable while also consuming less energy
  • The non-linear gasoline engine response and vehicle’s Vectored Thrust made it a challenge to tune. In the end I’m reasonably satisfied but it took some effort

The next version of the boat will use one or two electric motors. Beyond the environmental benefits, electric motors have a much more linear response which makes tuning easier. Because the vehicle is relatively slow we may make it a skid-steering vehicle with less moving parts which may make it more reliable and easier to transport.

I think we need to improve AP’s vectored thrust feature, enhance Auto so users can configure different accelerations for manual vs autonomous modes. I also think we need to implement SCurve navigation in Rover to improve the handling of corners.

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