So far we have spent about $100.00. Add a USB WiFi adapter a USB hub, a serial GPS, digital compass, and wind instruments and we are now at about $500, for a system ready to navigate.
It only costs about $180.00 with enclosure. It’s somewhat of an overkill for a boat. It can manage a quadcopter, or fixed wing aircraft, has a compass, gyro, accelerometer, barometer, on-board telemetry, and many more features. There is activity to turn the Ardupilot into a Arduboat, but this is primarily orientated toward the servo actuated RC community.
So can you use standard Arduino’s for a boat’s autopilot? The answer is absolutely yes, and Jack Edwards has built one that runs in heading mode (Auto), and tracks to a waypoint with cross error correction. It has successfully followed a 40 mile complex route. Wind instrument integration, and a rudder reference are next. In this case two Arduino Mega’s are used. One to manage the GPS data which then sends it to the second Arduino that handles the balance of the autopilot tasks.
What does seem to be missing from the Arduino open source hardware collection is a Arduboat autopilot shield designed specifically for a real boat. Maybe with a rudder reference input, on-board gyro, compass, and accelerometer. The Arduino can already interface to a DC rudder drive system, and a serial GPS. Wind data, waypoint information, and other data needs can also come via the Arduino. Okay let me think for a second, let’s add a couple of outputs to manage the thrusters, and don’t forget some capability to control the engines. I may want my boat to do the Skyhook thing, and be able to dock itself. Have I forgotten anything? I’m sure I have.
The Celestronic story was a flight of fancy, and I threw a lot of current technology at the wall to see if any would stick. I then belatedly discovered most of it was already long stuck on the technology wall somewhere world wide. I had no idea at the time how much open source high quality hardware and software was already available.
Is the Arduino the salvation of the marine electronics industry? The answer is conceptually yes. If it isn’t, it’s very very close. It does provide a crystalline view of a very possible path toward the future. The basic system elements seen could be redesigned to more specifically address the elements needed by boaters along with simpler implementation tools. Your marine installer in the future could be both building, programming, and installing a system to spec, at less cost.
In the mean time the Freeboard system has some very inexpensive and clever solutions to multiplex, and wirelessly move NMEA data to PC’s and mobile devices, display data and charts in a wireless browser environment, and provide accurate heading data. The modules can be used independently, or be integrated and combined. They will also play with your existing legacy marine navigation systems. The software is free, and open source also.
Is this all good for the marine electronic industry? In the long run, I think so. The open source, and third party app models can only have an overall beneficial impact. There may be tribulations dealing with patents, liability, propriety, proprietary or reliability issues, but they will work themselves out. Who could have believed just a few short years ago, that there would now be over 800,000 Apple iSomething apps availabl.
For more detail: Arduino weds Raspberry. The “Freeboard” project
Current Project / Post can also be found using:
- The freeboard pronect