Ideas for Building a Bathymetry Boat with GPS

I apologize in advance for asking questions as a Arduboat newbie. I have spent 2-3 days viewing forums and YouTube videos.

I am part of a volunteer water lake water quality group. I recently built a submarine using Pixhawk and Ardusub for exploring the bottom of our 40 ft lake.

I want to now build an autonomous platform for capturing gps and depth measurements for a detailed bathymetric map of our lake a a few others. Lake is only 3 miles around and 40 ft deep and has little waves.

Here is my wish list:

  1. Budget $1000 - $1500 usd
  2. Capture and export gps and associated depth for 6” depth accuracy into graphing software like Arc GIS
  3. Ability to somewhat accurately follow route via wirelessly entered gps coordinates as well as manual control
  4. Run time 2 hrs
  5. Use Ardupilot
  6. Can use Pixhawk
  7. Pipe or other platform for floatation.
  8. Any other things I have missed.

Extra bonus is someone has associated DiY instructions with your proposed build.

I have a Spektrum 6 ch DSMX transmitter and receiver if this is useful for the build. Also have iPhone and windows laptop.

Thanks in advance.

I wrote this up a few years ago.

A covid lockdown project, tricky to source items.

Boats are way easier than ardupilot submarines. ! Keep it light, and it will go far.

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Tom Kindred

I would like to use your design as a basis for what I am trying to do. Is it possible to get more detail like parts list, boat design details, 3D print info etc.? I can reproduce if need be - but thought I would try to save some time. Thanks

Hey Tom,
Parts list is not big, and mostly covered in the doc/link above
PVC Pipe, cross members, and 3d printed part to join them together.
3d Printed nose and tail cones to fit the pipe diameter. Any shape will work, some better than others
2x Blue robotics T200 thruster, basic ESC
3x Ozito 20v batteries for electric tools - any battery will work - these are nice and cheap
3d printed connector for Ozito batteries into XT60 connectors
RC Receiver + Pixhawk + 2 x Power modules + M8N GPS
Blue Robitics Ping 1d (sonar for depths - plugs directly into pixhawk)
RFD900x telemetry radio - with RC link running over it
Fuseblock and switch to turn it all on / off

Ground gear
Taranis RC controller connecting to D4R2 receiver for RC control
D4r2 RC rerceiver–ESP8266–RFD900x - “RC relay” to connect laptop via wifi with telemetry to boat.
Waterproof containters. We used 1 for battery/power and a smaller for electronics.


  • Keep it light as possible - less water to move
  • Keep it simple
  • Aim for waterline at widest point of pontoons (ie halfway up) - this is the maximum lift for min drag = max range/speed. A bit of math to balance weight of material vs lift or trial and error. Whatever works.
  • Water ! - Its a challenging environement.
  • Design for transport - how wide is your car boot etc
  • Think about the thrusters - we have no weed. The boat gets put on hard surfaces, so the thrusters sometimes get side-load forces. Either allow them to swing out, or have a plan to not load up that joint

Re 3d files - apols - im not sure if i have them. Everthing was very simple, and specific to our pipe size.
Happy building/sailing

I put effort into ensuring the cross members (ladder aluminium) had a strong secure connection to the pontoons. Failure of this joint would be problematic. “All thread” rod goes from the bottom of the pontoon and out through the top with a round bracket for the cross member to sit on and be bolted to. Whatever works !

Pixhawk - Ardurover - Boat - Skid Steer - Ping1d configured - bit of tuning… then a bit more.

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