Unmanned marine vehicle

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by parkland, May 26, 2014.

  1. parkland
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: canada

    parkland Senior Member

    This is more of a crack pot thought, not a plan to actually build it.
    In other words, I thought it was a cool idea, and would do it if I won the lottery.

    Picture a 40 ft long, 4 ft wide, 4 ft tall hull, so that 2 of them could be towed on a flat deck behind a semi.

    The lines are long and sleek, to maximize fuel usage.
    The deck is flat, covered in solar panels, having only the odd handle or tie down.
    There are 3 masts; one in the center for lights and radar, and one at each end with radio equipment.
    There is a small air intake pipe on the mast, exhaust pipe, and that is it; all other access to the hull is bolted up and sealed.

    Below deck, we find a small diesel engine, maybe 2 or 3 cylinders. 15 - 30 hp. 2 big alternators, and 2 battery banks, each 800 ah@12v, plus 2 backup 100 ah starting batteries.

    There would be 2 500 gallon fuel tanks, along with a large engine oil tank as well.

    The engine controls would all be linked to servos, as well as the rudder, and 4 electric trolling motors, 2 on front, 2 on back.

    There would be a computer system, and it would control the engine, transmission, and all 4 outboards, as well as log tons of data from radar, depth sounder, and any other sensors. As well, the mast would have several cameras installed, and the computer would save images from them on a hard disk drive, every second. The cameras would cover a 360* spread view of around the boat. As well, every second, the computer would save a log entry, showing GPS location, speed, heading, etc.

    As said earlier, the main mast could have radar, lights, cameras, 40 meter HAM antenna, and maybe some other bolt ons.
    The front and rear antenna masts would be for communications.
    The front could have cellular, HAM 80 meter, and 2.4 ghz 1000 mw wifi.
    The rear could have satteite, HAM 160 meter, and 5.8 ghz 1000 mw wifi.

    Basically, all the information the boat records would be on the disk drive.
    By sending a digital message over the ham radio to the boat, you could tell it to activate various equipment, such as open a cellular link, so you can download pictures from the hard drive.

    The radio would be used to send commands to the boat, like "drive to GPS coordinates xxxxxx", or "start engine".
    The program on the computer in the boat would actuate the rudder, and use a digital compass to steer to the desired location.
    While ham radio digital modes don't offer much in terms of bandwidth, (usually about as fast you can type, if your lucky...) they do allow long range communication, and don't cost a million dollars.

    Using a computer on board the boat for example, the boat could be dispatched to look for a missing kayaker. Using image recognition software, the pictures taken by all the cameras would have a "%" certainty that what they see is water.
    So the boat could be programmed from far away: "travel grid pattern between these coordinates and if water image not 100% positive, kill engine, send message home", type of thing.

    If you want to operate the boat live, just command it to activate the satellite link, control it with a joystick, download photos and logs, etc.

    This could be used for patrol, as well as search and rescue.
    If the engine burned 2 liters per hour, that would allow almost 2000 hours of engine runtime before needing fuel or service. Couple that with the fact that the 2 decent battery banks and solar panels could allow it to sit and monitor for a long time, the boat could literally spend months and months on duty, capturing a 360* view, and looking for whatever you tell it to.

    With todays modern hard drives, there is no question that this massive amount of data would only consume hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars of drives.

    The size of the battery banks means that in arctic temperatures, the engine could actually be warmed up with a block heater before starting.

    The image recognition software could easily see other boats on the water, and use that data to operate in accordance with marine operational laws.
    Could even radio out a notification that an unmanned vessel is traveling in the water, and call out direction and speed.

    Since there is nobody on board, hull shape could be maximized for fuel mileage. Rough riding or noise won't matter.

    Does anyone think this would be a cool idea?
    I think it would be really cool, and wouldn't even cost that much to build, with modern day technology.
    Computer stuff is cheap as ever, the hull, batteries, and engine would probably cost a bundle, but not really though, there isn't any human life risk involved, so the hull could be built without that in mind.

    Things would need to be reliable though; failure could mean a complete loss.
    Paying for retrieval of the vessel would likely cost more than building a new one.

    Edited to say:
    The wifi would be for transferring data relatively close, like from another boat, or circling airplane.
    The cell data would work once in a while, and the satellite is supposed to always work, but expensive as heck.
  2. rwatson
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: Tasmania,Australia

    rwatson Senior Member

    How come you are planning on using a poor mans communication system to control a rich mans investment - and an unprotected one at that ?

    For a $20,000 diesel engine, lots of expensive batteries and solar equipment, some good computer equipment, a strong hull, i would be happy to track it down and convert it to a manned vessel to the next port :)
  3. parkland
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: canada

    parkland Senior Member

    I was thinking more rebuilt small tractor engine for 2-3,000$.

    And I doubt anyone would tamper or try to steal the vessel, covered in cameras and several data links including satellite.
    Would you really steal something thats taking a picture of you and the boat you arrived in, with the possibility that it's uplinking those pictures as it's happening?

    You think ham radio is a poor mans choice for communications? What else could you use? A satellite link isn't 100% reliable, cellular service only a few miles from antenna, and high power wifi maybe a mile or 2.

    Using multiple HAM bands, I think would provide the most reliable standalone method for sending simple commands back and forth.

    I envision this being a backyard project, maybe with some small sponsors, that could explore northern canada and arctic waters.

    Exploring remote coastline, and dangerous ice pack areas too dangerous for humans, would be cool, and lots of cool pictures afterwards.

    All for way way cheaper than a manned vessel to do the same thing.
  4. daiquiri
    Joined: May 2004
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    Location: Italy (Garda Lake) and Croatia (Istria)

    daiquiri Engineering and Design

  5. parkland
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: canada

    parkland Senior Member

  6. parkland
    Joined: Jul 2012
    Posts: 700
    Likes: 6, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 40
    Location: canada

    parkland Senior Member

  7. parkland
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: canada

    parkland Senior Member

    And also I was just looking; sidescan sonar is surprisingly affordable, that could also be a huge asset.

    Do you guys think this could be a fun hobby / small side business?

    I don't know if it would be a very profitable business, but maybe break even and be a cool hobby.

    There must be some interest in remote area research where it would cost to much or be too risky to send manned research vessels.
  8. myark
    Joined: Oct 2012
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    Location: Thailand

    myark Senior Member

    A robotic boat capable of thinking for itself is set to make waves in Singapore next month.
    A team of QUT students hopes its creation, affectionately called Bruce, will triumph at the first ever Maritime RobotX Challenge on October 20-26.
    15 teams from Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and the USA will compete in the event, designed to promote
    the development of autonomous boats for use in search-and-rescue operations, oil slicks, crashes and other maritime incidents.

    Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/que...robot-boat-20140903-10c00j.html#ixzz3CNiSI3qw

    Attached Files:

  9. JSL
    Joined: Nov 2012
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    Location: Delta BC

    JSL Senior Member

    Check out ISE (International Submarine Engineering), they have done several AUV's to fulfill a certain purpose. One submarine was about 10m x 1.5m and laid some cable several miles under polar ice and then returned. About 15 years ago I worked with them on the SARPal - a small surface recue vessel: airdropped, autonomous, or remote controlled (via satellite).

  10. jonr
    Joined: Sep 2008
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    Location: Great Lakes

    jonr Senior Member

    > I don't know if it would be a very profitable business, but maybe break even ...

    It depends what you use it to smuggle :)
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