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An autonomous sailboat robot is a boat that only uses the wind on its sail as the propelling force, without remote control or human assistance to achieve its mission. Robotic sailing offers the potential of long range and long term autonomous wind propelled, solar or wave-powered carbon neutral devices. Robotic sailing devices could contribute to monitoring of environmental, ecological, meteorological, hydrographic and oceanographic data. These devices can also be used in traffic monitoring, border surveillance, security, assistance and rescue. The dependency on changing winds and sea conditions presents a considerable challenge for short and long term route and stability planning, collision avoidance and boat control. Building a robust and seaworthy sailing robot presents a truly complex and multi-disciplinary challenge for boat designers, naval architects, systems/electrical engineers and computer scientists.

Over the last decade, several events such as Sailbot, World Robotic Sailing Championship and the International Robotic Sailing Conference (WRSC/IRSC) and Microtransat have sparked an explosion in the number of groups working on autonomous sailing robots. Many of the challenges in building truly autonomous sailing robots still remain unsolved. These proceedings present the work of researchers on current and future challenges in autonomous sailboat development, presented at the WRSC/IRSC 2014 in Galway, Ireland, 8th – 12th September 2014.



Sailboat Platforms and Applications


An Easy-To-Build, Low-Cost, High-Performance SailBot

Boats built to the SailBot Class rules are high-performance, computer-controlled vessels and to win requires both good systems development and a good boat. The loose rules allow for exotic design and construction in order to improve vessel performance, though with increasing cost of materials. This paper describes the naval architecture design, construction and test sailing of a high-performance SailBot Sea Quester, built using basic tools and inexpensive materials, and costing €1200. The paper proposes alternative construction methods with an estimated built cost of approximately $600, though with the loss of some operating performance. Sea Quester was launched and sailed under remote control on 25 April 2014 and testing is in progress.
Paul Miller, Andrew Beeler, Beatrice Cayaban, Matthew Dalton, Cassandra Fach, Christian Link, Joel MacArthur, Jericho Urmenita, Robert Yerkes Medina

MaxiMOOP: A Multi-Role, Low Cost and Small Sailing Robot Platform

This paper describes the development, testing and operational results from a small, autonomous sailing vessel that was designed to be easily launched and retrieved by one person while carrying a 7.5 kg payload and with enough speed under sail to overcome reasonable current. The hull is 1.2 metres long and fits in the boot of a typical car. This paper focuses on the design and testing of four prototypes, two designed for short course racing and two others designed for long endurance all weather missions. Initial tests have shown top speeds of around 3 knots with a larger racing rig and 2.4 knots with a small all weather rig. One of the prototypes has attempted a transatlantic crossing. This was cut short when it was accidentally caught by a fishing boat. Two different autonomous control systems have been developed, one based around a pair of microcontrollers and intended for low power operation averaging less than 1Wand the other based around a Raspberry Pi and ATMega328 combination to ease development and test more complex sailing algorithms.
Paul Miller, Matthew Hamlet, Colin Sauzé, Mark Neal, David Capper, Daniel Clark, Ashley Iles, Louis Taylor

Towing with Sailboat Robots

Moving huge objects floating at the surface of the ocean (such as containers or icebergs) with boats requires many human operators and a lot of energy. This is mainly due to the fact that when humans operate such equipment, time is costly. Now, when we have time (as when robots operate, for instance), it is possible to move arbitrarily large objects, for over long distances, with a limited quantity of energy. This is a consequence of the fact that in the water, the friction forces are proportional to the square of the speed (i.e., when we go slowly, we have almost no friction). This paper proposes the use of a sailboat robot to tow large objects. It shows which control law could be used is order to (i) avoid loops inside the towing cable, (ii) avoid collisions between the robot and the towed object, and (iii) move the object toward the desired direction. The control law is validated on a simulation where the object to be towed has to follow a trajectory corresponding to a large circle.
Luc Jaulin, Fabrice Le Bars

Power Management and Mission Planning


Power Management Strategies for an Autonomous Robotic Sailboat

Different modes of operation for an autonomous sailing vessel are introduced. The modes of operation are motivated from a nautical as well as an energy efficiency point of view. Based on the modes of operation, an efficient way to turn on and off sensors and/or actuators using a microcontroller and transistor-based relays is applied.
Kjell Dahl, Anton Bengsén, Matias Waller

METASail – A Tool for Planning, Supervision and Analysis of Robotic Sailboat Missions

Robotic sailing is a relatively new technology with notable developments in the last few years. The ability to operate with very low energy requirements enables the potential for undertaking extremely long missions on the ocean, relying only on renewable energy sources for powering the control and communication systems, and the electric actuators. To be effective for wide acceptance in ocean sampling applications, robotic sailboats must be able to complement the endurance proficiency with adequate mechanisms and support tools for an easy setup and utilization by end users, who are often not aware of the supporting robotic technologies. In this paper we present METASail (Mission Emulation, Tracking and Analysis for Sailing robots), an interactive tool for assisting the planning, supervision and analysis of missions performed by the autonomous sailing boat FASt.
José Carlos Alves, Nuno Alexander Cruz

Controllers and Sensors


Towards Active Course Marks for Autonomous Sailing Competitions

This paper describes the environmental monitoring / regatta beacon buoy under development at the Laboratory of Autonomous Systems (LSA) of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto. On the one hand, environmentalmonitoring of open water bodies in real or deferred time is essential to assess and make sensible decisions and, on the other hand, the broadcast in real time of position, water and wind related parameters allows autonomous boats to optimise their regatta performance. This proposal, rather than restraining the boats autonomy, fosters the development of intelligent behaviour by allowing the boats to focus on regatta strategy and tactics. The Nautical and Telemetric Application (NAUTA) buoy is a dual mode reconfigurable system that includes communications, control, data logging, sensing, storage and power subsystems. In environmental monitoring mode, the buoy gathers and stores data from several underwater and above water sensors and, in regatta mode, the buoy becomes an active course mark for the autonomous sailing boats in the vicinity. During a race, the buoy broadcasts its position, together with the wind and the water current local conditions, allowing autonomous boats to navigate towards and round the mark successfully. This project started with the specification of the requirements of the dual mode operation, followed by the design and building of the buoy structure. The research is currently focussed on the development of the modular, reconfigurable, open source-based control system. The NAUTA buoy is innovative, extensible and optimises the on board platform resources.
Paulo Ferreira, Benedita Malheiro, Pedro Guedes, Manuel Silva

A Real-Time Sailboat Controller Based on ChibiOS

This paper presents ongoing work aimed at the development of a multithreaded open source sailboat controller based on low cost Arduinocompatible hardware and ChibiOS/RT, a small and agile real-time operating system.
The results achieved so far prove that this approach, that relies intensively on the programming resources provided by the real-time multithreaded operating system has produced a more stable, easy to modify and predictable controller, all of them valuable characteristics in the context of a sailboat and particularly in the case of competition environments.
Jorge Cabrera-Gámez, Angel Ramos de Miguel, Antonio C. Domínguez-Brito, Jose D. Hernández-Sosa, Jose Isern-González, Leonhard Adler

Piezoelectric Vibrational Sensor for Sail Luffing Detetection on Robotic Sailboats

Current robotic sailing relies on sensing wind direction and moving the sails to a position that is appropriate for that relative wind angle. The research to date shows that a correctly tuned sail in the classic wing shape is essential for maximum speed over water. This paper relates research on sensors used to determine when sail trim is incorrect. With improper sail trim, the sail luffs. This luffing produces turbulence which reduces the efficiency of the sail. By instrumenting the sail with sensors to detect when sails begin to luff, the robot can determine when the sail is improperly trimmed and, potentially, take corrective action.
Halie Murray-Davis, David Barrett


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