Let's Make Robots!

Robotic autonomous transoceanic ship :P

Hello, here i am again for another of my impossible to realize weird ideas :P

This one was generated after looking at the map of users in google maps. I thought: it would be super cool to have a robot that is able to go from one LMRoboter to another in different areas of the world. Excluding for obvious reason ground and air veicles, i tought about a robotic boat :P The sea is free of obstacles and doesn't require active work to float.

The idea is to build a smallish boat (ie a meter length or such), equip it with fancy gps and stuff, give it some kind of route, and let it free on the oceans :) It should automatically drive to destination, where a fellow would pick it up and rejoice of the succesful mission.

Of course to have the autonomy it should be equipped with some solar panels (or RTG is someone has a spare one at home :P)

If would be useful to have some kind of contact, such as satellite phone or GSM or anything, to have it communicate its position back and receive commands.

Ok, now the first problem i can see is that a small ship would not be able to go against  high waves and currents. Any solution ? :P

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You would need something that could rght itself when it hits a wave and gets knocked upside down, and something that can be fully submerged. I am assuming you also need to contact the governments of countries that it will enter so that they don't assuming it is an incomming missle.

well for that it's not a problem, it shouln't be hard to make a fully sealed chassis with some weight on the bottom that turns it right.

i think it would be much too slow to be exchanged for a missle, but the point is possibly correct . :)

I think the size would be enough to keep it as not being a missile, not to mention theres alot of things that drift cross atlantic surely these couldnt all be presumed attacks by radar. The main thing is navigation (to get to each person!?!) transmission to track where it is and when it will arrive, the presumption it wont be eaten by something or collide into a boat and destroyed and the overall issue of power. IF it's submerged solar power may be out of the question.... a self generated water wheel? an idea but I think not.

 Would be fun to create an aquatic autonomous bot though. I'd love to have one in my pool, thing is what about keeping water out of the motors, sounds difficult for a home project.

Well not necessary to each person, just make it travel so some place around :) reaching LMR folks was just an idea.

Data connection and power are the main problems. I think navigation can be addressed relatively easily with GPS once you have a controllable propulsion. Maybe we could investigate on sea currents to take advantage of them for planning the route.

About data connection, i'm a bit lost. Maybe hacking some satellite phone could work, but they're expensive and it would be quite an hard work. In theory if the boat stays near to coast, it could use standard GSM, but that kind of limits it, not to mention that the sea near coast contains way more ships, boats and other obstacles than open sea. On the other side, it is also less agitated.

About power, probably the only option is solar panels and some accumulator. AFAIK they usually don't give much power so the energy budget would be limited. Here's a standard one on sparkfun. I think it could probably deliver an average 150 mA during day. It's 18x11 cm so many could be used together on the top of the ship (just as a reference, there are probably better suited panels for this project). It should be enought for one or two motor and boards. Of course there's also the night to take care of :P

About making it water tight, i don't know but i think it feasible, we could take a look at how model ships are made (or use one of them as a base for the robot).

Well i want to say that this is just an idea for some fun discussion and thinking, i don't think i'll build it :) but maybe we could tackle all the problems and find a nice design :P

You will still need to detect oil-rigs, islands and other stuff. When the bot reaches the other side of the ocean there's the coast-line with docks, harbors, bays and other obstacles. No: I don't think this can be done without some kind of obstacle detection or at the least a detailed map.

Still. I really like this idea. I can picture myself standing on the beaches of holland with binoculars in my hand, seeing the robotic ocean conquerer  appear on the horizon.

well ok, but those are very big obstacles, mostly fixed, easy to avoid with simply a route that doesn't include them or at most one of our range detector.. the obstacles i was thinking of that are difficoult to cope with are the ones present in the ground, ie stones, plants, steps, chairs, cable mess, peoples. The sea is free of them :)

Uhm holland looks like an good target, i have to exit the adriatic sea and curcumnavigate europe, easy i'd say :)

haha you could always get some dolphin or seal ending up playing games with it. Lets not forget some of the currents midatlantic are incredibly strong. Adding to that battery life issue you'll need alot of force propelling it. 

Maybe we could follow in the footsteps of some Cal Tech engineers.


I just looked around and find this Unisolar Cell that comes in different size & specs, and there are flexible or fixed variants. The smaller one, about 50x25 cm, delivers about 300 mA at 16-20 Volts and can be used to recharge a 12V battery, costs 88$.

Here you can see some of these flexible panes on a real ship.

this would be a great project to do!

i think that the most difficult thing to do is the comunication. it could only be done with a satelite phone ( expensive)

 at night we could just put it in energ saving mode, go with the flow or stand still in the same spot ( tha could be even harder cause of the currents)

great idea!

I'm glad you like it :)

Uhm i think at night it cannot be just put to sleep, as the drifting would probably push it far too distant. so we need to equip it with a battery to be recharged by day, or we should limit the travel to a single day. I don't think a real transoceanic travel would be feasible anyway, at least without big investments and testing.. Maybe a transadriatic travel could be cool enought :)

I've also searched for motors and such, i've find a couple of inboard and outboard motors for model ships at this site. They don't have full specification anyway. They also sells props, shafts and fins that would be useful.

Btw i don't think we can expect a DC motor to run without pauses for months :) Maybe we could detect if the sea current is favorable and switch to a free drifting for some time.