An Autonomous Sailing Robot for Ocean Observation

Colin Sauze, Mark Neal

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The introduction of the Water Framework Directive has highlighted the need for water quality monitoring in freshwater systems, estuaries and at sea. Systems which currently exist for these tasks include fixed monitoring stations, both moored and drifting databuoys, survey ships and satellites. Moored databuoys suffer from significant costs in their deployment and maintenance, floating buoys are often lost, survey ships can only cover limited areas while satellites take years to manufacture at vast expense and lack the resolution and accuracy of in-situ devices. It is therefore proposed that a small autonomous sailing boat could be used to complement these systems. Such a boat can either be instructed to hold a fixed position by constantly circling or sail a predefined course such as crossing an ocean. Currently two 1.5m long prototypes have been developed and tested on lakes and coastal waters. They are propelled using a solid wing shaped sail. Electricity for use in sail and rudder control motors is provided by onboard batteries. A wind sensor, GPS and compass provide data to a computer which controls the rudder and sail positions. In order to successfully survive at sea for long periods of time it is envisaged that in addition to high quality hardware there will be a requirement for software which can balance competing interests particularly upon the electrical systems. Work is taking place to model such a system upon homeostasis within biological systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


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