I work for a geophysical company in Australia and we are looking at potential work that will require us to ferry some somewhat light equipment around on the ocean. In essence we are in need of a USV which can be controlled remotely and monitored and directed with waypoints. The USV will need to be able to pull a load of upwards of 15 kilograms which is floating just behind the vessel.
We have the ability to operate our equipment remotely, but do not have the technical ability or the experience with building a boat and using ArduRover etc.
The boat will need to be able to be at sea for quite sometime so it would need to be equip with solar and is at utmost, reliable. The equipment is valuable so losing it is devastating.
We have a budget of 12,000 AUD, otherwise it just makes more sense for us to do it by hand with a boat hired etc.
Are there any manufacturers that can be recommended or someone here who is up to the task and has experience with building this sort of thing?
Thank you kindly
I suspect you’ll struggle to find something that meets those specifications within that stated budget - particularly the solar-powered requirement and the ocean-going capability.
The BlueBoat may somewhat fit your requirements:
EDIT: There’s also Ocius (Uncrewed Surface Vessel | OCIUS).
We saw that boat and it was the closest thing that fit our needs!
Although it’s range is so limited because it’s entirely battery driven - what a shame! I tried reaching out to them a week ago and they never replied sadly. You think just attaching a few solar panels and a charge controller would be child’s play.
Also I had worries of it capsizing and not being able to self right. The equipment it is dragging is really expensive and not ours, it’s rented.
I personally like the look of the Open Ocean Robotics vehicles (which run ArduPilot I believe) although I suspect they will be well outside the stated budget. Perhaps as a rental it might be close.
I built this boat with a company here in Japan but it cost the equivalent of about $20K AUD just for parts.
Given the power requirement for open sea operations, size,strength and being able to cope with salt water I doubt you will be able to find something in that budget range.
But some options here:
Maybe one of these companies is able to just sell the electronics aspect,
It’s easy enough to make a fibre glass body with solar panels batteries and a motor but where I see the difficulty is making the autopilot function. There must be people out there who can help build that aspect of the boat.
I see trolling motor auto pilots which might work if I attach starlink and a mobile phone with a remote access tool. Then through the phone function the auto pilot for the trolling motor.
But being able to maintain healthy battery levels is another issue. Like a cutoff for when they are low on life. And also the reliability of a trolling motor
Re the solar panel controller, here’s one unit that is designed to work with ArduPilot although I think there have been very few users and when it has been used, it’s normally with Planes. Still, I’ve got one and it seems to work.
Its actually very much the other way around, the radio controller, autopilot, motors, escs, even lte link etc is all available off the shelf and quite cheap.
But a suitable hull is basically not available because the market is so small at the moment, and if a usv manufacturer did have suitable hulls made they wouldn’t sell you one for a sensible price because they would see it as selling to a competitor.
The hours jnvolved in making a boat is huge as you need to make and finish three boats just to make one.
Some ppl use inflatable standup paddle boards or smaller foam body boards as the basis of the hull to make it quicker and easier
I agree that the control side isn’t the real issue here.
Some of the challenges I see are:
- Power required for open sea operation and power that can be gained by the solar panels. Also all related issues like what happens when there are few cloudy days yet system supposed to be deployed for weeks? Can’t just turn motors off at low battery level as drift out at sea would cause significant problems. - I guess that’s why some companies choose the sailing boat approach.
- Legal issues: Just like with driver-less cars, we have the technology but not the legal framework to widely apply the technology. Starting with the fact that in some states a boat licence is required depending on speed yet in others depending on hp. But you can’t apply such licence to an unmanned vessel. Which leaves only the option of somehow staying below the licence requirement altogether or operating it in a state or country that doesn’t require any licensing.
- Insurance: I often wonder how companies which already produce autonomous vehicles / vessels manage to get insurance cover. Or do they simply pass that responsibility on to the operator? But how can an operator get insurance cover for a completely autonomous device?
In Australia the legislation in regards to drones requires direct control of any drones and as such insurance can be obtained. But in other independently operating devices …??
I’d be happy to pay someone to get the computer aspect built.
Essentially this boat is what I’m trying to copy except a little larger concept. He crossed the Pacific on 200 watts of solar, where as I am going for about 600.
All with an iridium gps Internet unit and seven years ago
I spoke to him a bunch already and he said he’s far too busy to build the computer and he said he could do it for 1000 USD, but it would be in no soon time, since he’s fully committed to other projects.
Making the hull, solar panels with a charge controller and batteries hooked up I can do no problem, I have people to help in the company.
As for insurance and other boats, we will be in an area with almost no marine traffic, except crocodiles
Could I pay you to help assemble a computer unit etc for this project? If the equipment is cheap then paying for your time to help guide me will be well worth it. It doesn’t need to be super user friendly, just needs to be able to follow some waypoints, it’s that simple.
Are you still pursuing this project? If so, I may be able to assist.
If so, send me a PM and we can discuss further.