There’s absolutely nothing rather like the sight of a plastic box merrily sailing its way around a lake to symbolise how easy it is to get started in self-governing robotics. This isn’t a job we’re composing about because of technical quality, but simply because enjoying an autonomous tupperware box browse a lake by itself is surprisingly compelling viewing. The factor that [rctestflight] constructed the vessel was to test out the abilities of ArduRover. ArduRover is, of course, a flavour of the exceptionally popular open source ArduPilot, and in this case is operating on a Pixhawk.

The hardware itself is deliberately as easy as possible: 2 little motors with RC car ESCs, a GPS, some power management and a telemetry module are all it takes. The telemetry module permits the course/mission to be upgraded on the fly, along with sending diagnostic information back home. Initially, this setup performed badly; low GPS precision combined with a high frequency control loop piloting a device with little inertia result in a really irregular course. But after applying some filtering to the GPS this improved considerably.

Despite the simplicity of the setup, it wasn’t unsusceptible to defects. Seaweed in the prop was a reason for some stressful viewing, not to point out the lack of power needed to cruise versus the wind. After these issues caused the boat to wander off course past a nearby pontoon, public sightings varied from a prohibited police drone to a canine with lights on its head.

If you wish to use your self-governing boat for other functions than frightening the public, we’ve blogged about vessels that have actually been utilized to map the depth of the sea bed, track aircraft, and even cross the Atlantic

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