Help with Automated Boat Project

Hello Techs!
I’m just starting out on a new project and I could really do with some help with some aspects.

I’m planning to put together an autonomous model boat which will go around the world (maybe!).

Here are my ideas:

  • Small-ish boat with twin propellers.
  • Solar panel on the top to charge the batteries.
  • Pi Zero onboard with GPS, LoraWan, compass and temp sensors.

The plan is that I’m hoping that the craft will be within range of a few LoraWAN gateways as it goes round the world and will check in. I already have an outline for the code writing details to a file if it is out of range, then when it gets a signal it will upload all it’s data. I’ve read that LoraWAN can reach 10s or 100s of KM so fingers crossed it’ll stretch out into the sea since there are no buildings in the way! This will save me satellite charges and battery power.

My problem areas where I need help are:

  • Autonomously controlling the boat - getting it to track to waypoints (within a tolerance), being able to recover from powering down when the batteries run out and then drifting off course when it powers back up and avoiding landfall. I’ve spent a long time Googling this and looked at options like but this seems to need a base station to monitor the remote device and is maybe overly complex.
  • The hardware electronics - joining the battery, motors, Pi Zero and solar panel correctly (plus sizing the battery and solar panel). I realise this is a big one, but my background is more in the software side of things so I don’t even know where to start with this. I’m going to use Grove connectors for the sensors so that should take out any issues with that, so it’s just charging the batteries, powering the Pi and motors, and controlling the motors with the Pi. I also have a PiJuice hat for the Pi Zero, but I’m not sure if that will cope with a big enough battery to power the motors for a reasonable length of time per charge (a few hours).

I understand that this is a lot to ask, but even if you could point me in the right direction of where to look for help I would be great!

Thanks muchly.

TL-DR : Planning a project and I don’t have a clue how to cable up the pi/solar panel/motors and have the Pi controlling the motors. Any help would be great!

Firstly I’d like you to know that I know almost nothing on this subject, but I’d love to give this a go, just in case I can add anything to think about. On the actual setup, I’d recommend the following:

-boat to your left and right, with a platform in the middle. This gives less water resistance but more space for things.
You also need to consider some way of making the boat automatically rebalance itself if it capsizes.

-200w solar panel, or greater, preferably flexible and ideally located on the middle platform. And a 12 or 24v charge controller, ideally one with a usb output, and one that’s designed for lithium ion setups.

-Power Stepdown for your electronics.

-Lithium ion batteries, arranged to your preferred voltage (12 or 24), you might need to put half on the left hull and half on the right hull, to keep it balanced. I’d recommend 18650 or 26650, and I highly recommend Samsung or LG, to avoid fakes.

-a raspberry pi zero with various ‘hats’, usb cable, micro SD card, 2 important hats would be a breakout board and a GPS hat. Other hats can include, a camera hat, WiFi hat, controller board.

-a brushless 12v motor for your propeller. Brushless, is more reliable. If you are worried about groundings, perhaps also a fan system on top, for emergencies?

-led lights, for navigation and visibility, when needed. And perhaps a horn.

-even if your hull is fully sealed, I’d recommend a small pump for emergencies.

-a waterproof sticker, clearly showing your name, phone number, and email address.

-a few packets of that ‘sillica gel’ to prevent damp issues inside the hull.

Hope this helps in some way :+1: