This Memorial Day weekend, Tufts Robotic Sail Team (TRST) started the summer right with the maiden voyage of our first robotic sail boat. This first sail tested the work we put in over the past couple weeks to build the CR-914 model. A critical milestone before we attempt autonomous sailing, Monday’s under-way in the Charles River was a fun and stress relieving activity, highlighting our work is paying dividends.

Sailing in the Charles River at the MIT Sailing Pavilion.

Sailing in the Charles River at the MIT Sailing Pavilion.

The major concerns we tested are:

  1. How much water gets inside the cockpit?
  2. What is the actual range of the radio controls?
  3. How does the boat perform in the water?

After sailing for about 25 minutes, a fair amount of water got inside the boat. However, a quick visual inspection of the electronics–the two servos, the radio transmitter & receiver, and the battery pack–showed no signs of corrosion or water damage. We will still stick with our plan to use plastic Tupperware to enclose our Arduino (the micro controller) and the sensor circuit.

Sailing with the Boston skyline in the background.

Sailing with the Boston skyline in the background.

The range on the radio controls is impressive. Although we did not measure precisely, we could sail a couple hundred feet away from the dock and still be within the “green” range–the remote control indicates the strength of the signal with an LED; green is good, yellow is OK, and red is bad. This week we will try using both the radio controls that came with the CR-914 kit, and the Xbee module 2 wireless transmitter/receiver to communicate with our Arduino.

Making final adjustments before heading out into Boston.

Making final adjustments before heading out into Boston.

The boat sailed much better than any of could have expected. Unfortunately, the winds on the Charles River are exceptionally shifty–but when she hit a puff, our boat could pick up a lot of speed. Due to her small size the surface affects of the wind and turbulence from the dock played a significant role in the aerodynamics. Sailing close to the dock was almost impossible.

Team photo before the first launch.

Team photo before the first launch.

Now with less than two weeks left we are going to try and make this boat sail by itself. It will be tough, and we don’t expect to come in first, but a reliable boat that gets from point A to point B will be a success and a huge milestone for this young team. Thanks for reading, and supporting the Tufts Robotic Sail Team.

 

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

 

2 Responses to Maiden Voyage

  1. SSP says:

    I have a client who manufactures transformers for difficult environmental conditions. After the assembly is completed they place them in a case and pour a two-part epoxy over the assembly to seal the whole unit in place and protect it from the elements. Something to think about if there are electronics you could seal in place.

  2. Only transformers? I’ll keep this in mind, but I think the only A/C we may need will be for micro-electronics. That shouldn’t warrent a transformer.

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