GPS Guided Trans-Atlantic Robot Boat

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Blog6: Snoopy Sloop robot boat tests, repairs, and changes
from the Atlantic Attempt in October 2016 until now.

"I always wanted to be an engineer, and now I are one !"

Updated 1930 Saturday 4th February 2017 UK time
( Boat 11 mast, sails, SPOT Trace, Navigation Light, stickers, power, weight only 11.74kg ! ) You can Skip to near end of this Blog

You probably reached this "Blog6" page from that called Snoopy's October 2016 Atlantic Attempt, Snoopy, or the Design of Snoopy Sloop page . If not, click on a link to know more.
Each "blog" page describes detailed work preparing for the next Atlantic Attempt. i.e. covering a period in the region of a year: less if more than one attempt is made. The Blog pages were started after the first 2012 Attempt, where Snoopy's boat was lost. All later attempts were with the same boat, sometimes after major repairs. The blogs provide online "Engineering Notebooks", providing a day-by-day account of repairs, changes, and testing: mostly testing.

Origin of wheels for Snoopy's trolley click here for more on the Horse who snatched Snoopy These blog pages are mostly about numerous repairs to the boat, results from "BRAY LAKE TEsts", or 24/7 reliability testing on Bray Lake. i.s. Snoopy sailing back and forth over a 24/7 waypoint in "Snoopy Corner". This is typically for several weeks, in all weather, including gale force winds. Sometimes, a few things happened which resulted in amusing pictures or stories, such as countering human-intervention, or testing the wheels for Snoopy's trolly. Click on the pictures either side for larger versions, or visit earlier blogs above. BlogX, the "blog of experiments", shows ideas and products, some of which may appear in future boats.

Analysis of the 2016 Attempt, before Boat 11 is prepared and tested on Bray Lake ...

This is a record of repairs and changes made to the boat, after the October 2016 Atlantic Attempt. See Blog1, Blog2, Blog3, Blog4, and Blog5 pages, for earlier progress, including testing on Bray Lake, before the 2016 Attempt.

We start with analysis of what we think went wrong with the boat on the October 2016 Attempt. It makes sense to get as much information as possible from each attempt, before making the next boat. As it happens, Boat 11 has been "waiting in the wings" for years. We did not expect to keep getting Boat 10 back ! :-)

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Thursday 6th October: The Launch and first 24 hours of the Atlantic Attempt ...

You can read the full story in pictures and video on Snoopy's October 2016 Atlantic Attempt.

GPS Guided Trans-Atlantic Robot Boat GPS Guided Trans-Atlantic Robot Boat

Snoopy's drift In short: Snoopy made fast progress, but with a steering error to the right, that got worse, before his last SPOT report, just before he is assumed to have hit rocks on the east coast of Portland. Analysis of wind and tidal current indicates that he was probably then swept out to sea. The following information has been moved from that "October 2016 Attempt" page above.

Peter's KML map, based on SPOT data, etc. Last SPOT position was 1004 BST Friday 7th October. Google Earth will display RBAA16A.KML.

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

It should not be a problem, but it is certainly not what was expected. It seems that, through an "accident of good fortune", of wind and tide directions, and geometry, Snoopy managed to "cut the corner", skipping the "Channel" Waypoint, to make faster progress. It seems Snoopy may be steering to the right, probably due to the rudder not being exactly centered. He made little progress on Thursday night, because the wind was not strong enough to fight the eastward tide. Now Snoopy has the tide and wind behind him, until the tide turns eastward again at about 0800 BST Friday. Let us hope Snoopy does not get too close to Portland Bill - he's done that before ! :-)

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

Friday 7th October: Dick searches for Snoopy on Portland's east coast ...

Snoopy was last seen on his SPOT tracker at 1004 BST, heading towards Church Ope Cove. A sighting or photo would be good !

Email received from Dick at 1805 Friday, before he headed back home from Portland: Hi Robin, Well no luck I'm afraid. I've walked the very rocky shoreline from the car park north for about 2-3 miles and examined the shoreline south of the car park for about a mile. Pity we didn't get one more transmission just before he came a shore, or better still just after so a identify the spot... etc "

Everyone: no taking risks please. I'm sure Snoopy will turn up one day, and at least it means we can switch to his much lighter Boat 11, waiting in the wings for years ! :-)

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

Portland from the East, using Dick's AA16PATH.KML on Google Earth. Later Wind & Tide analysis shows Snoopy may have travelled south, to left, towards Portland Bill.

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

Cheyne House The rocky coastline is difficult to reach from land, to the south, as Dick discovered. You can use Dick's KML file with Google Earth, to explore the area, or google images such as "east portland coast". I found this one of Cheyne House, near Freshwater Bay, that looks a nice place to stay. Click on the image to enlarge it.

However, a search for Snoopy along that strip of coast, would be done much easier in a suitable boat in suitable weather and tide conditions. Remember that the "shambles" is a notoriously dangerous area of strong tidal currents. More importantly, you could be wasting your time: Robin's best bet is that Snoopy was carried out to sea. See the information below, on wind and tidal current.

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

What went wrong and why ? Steering errors to the right ? Rudder not exactly centred ?

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt Google Earth analysis of Peter's KML file confirms that after launch, Snoopy was steering 17 degrees to the right, but by next morning, this was nearer to 90 degrees. The last autopilot software change was 15th February 2015, to add the "Weymouth" Waypoint. Details of software testing, including with Peter's software rig, are in Blog4. e.g. When east of "Weymouth", Snoopy should be aiming almost directly south for that waypoint, but this switches to "Prawle", to the South-West. This "Blog4" also includes detail about Snoopy's rudder servo linkage: look at the work in January 2015. That servo "lever arm" should be held by an allen screw, clamped tightly against a flat, filed onto the rudder shaft. The whole lot should have been fixed with Locktite, AFTER making sure the rudder is exactly centred, by testing on Bray Lake !

Snoopy's 18 February 2015 Bray Lake Test

No Bray Lake Tests of Boat 10 since before the 2015 Atlantic Attempt !!!

I was horrified to discover, after looking at Blog5, that Snoopy's boat had not been tested on Bray Lake since the lastAtlantic Attempt in March 2015 ! It's hardly surprising that the rudder may have been a bit off-centre ! Looking further back in time, in Blog4, shows weeks of 24/7 reliability testing on Bray Lake, in February and March 2015. Click on that picture to enlarge it. The last "Bray Lake Tests" were in February 2015, and show tendency to steer to the right. It seems it was never corrected !

My "Blog" pages are my "Engineering Notebooks", akin to what I was taught to use as a young engineering apprentice, working in a laboratory for the first time, in the early 1960s. The difference of doing it online is that lots of people can look over your shoulder and see where you made mistakes ! :-) white strip

Where is Snoopy now ? We need a visual sighting, or even a photo ! :-)

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

France is only 100 nautical miles downwind ! :-)

While we wait for any really useful information, such as a visual sighting of Snoopy, we can speculate on where he might go in the days ahead....

The picture on the right is from Robin's old DRIFT model, originally used on GPS Bottles projects, years ago, and last used on the American Toy Boat page in March 2016. It needed the right tidal current and wind data plugged into it. e.g. tidal current maximums between 1.2 and 1.5 knots. e.g. Winds 15mph from North East rising to 25mph from East-South-East by Wednesday. Wind predictions are taken roughly from Ventusky This gives a rough guess on where Snoopy might reach by Wednesday 12th October, or earlier.

The white track is of a bottle, half submerged, drifting with the tide and surface water at about 3% of wind speed. The blue track is at 5% - something catching the wind a little. The green is 10% - perhaps Snoopy with sails up,but with rudder hard over, drifting in circles. Yellow and purple are 15% and 20% - sails up but with rudder central - running with the wind.

There are LOTS of assumptions here. e.g. that Snoopy managed to get free of rocks. e.g. that Snoopy drifts downwind, with his sails still up, and no steering by his autopilot, and the rudder to one side. We think they have broken by now anyway. If they were working at all, his path would be more westward. But speculation is no substitute for observations ! :-)

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What would we do differently next time ? ... Next year's Boat 11 ...

The following is taken directly from the Design page, where it has been for some time. Perhaps I should add "5) do Bray Lake Tests to check the rudder is central" ! :-)

There is a lot I would not change in next year's Boat. e.g. 1.2 metre long Marblehead hull with IOM #3 Storm sails; GPS-Only Autopilot, based on Picaxe computer and Globalsat BR355 GPS. I may experiment with new ideas, such as power switching, compass steering, and wind direction sensors - but they are only adopted after many months, or even years, of prototyping then thorough testing. However, I've added this section, so you don't miss important future changes, mostly based on the discovery of better products. In short they are: 1) Use of SPOT Trace, instead of a modified SPOT Messenger; 2) Use of the Picaxe 28X2 Computer, instead of the Picaxe 08M2: more memory and comes assembled; 3) Use of the Globalsat BR355-S2 GPS, including applying a firmware patch, and configuring it with Static Navigation off, and only $GPRMC sentences; 4) Fewer but better solar panels. You will see these products discussed in more detail, later on this "Design" page and linked pages. The pictures should help you find the relevant sections.

next year's boat

Planned work on the 2017 Boat ...

Snoopy's 2016 Trans-Atlantic Attempt

Responding to a sighting of Snoopy will obviously take priority: we would re-run the DRIFT model to get a better guestimate of where he goes next. If, by good fortune, he is rescued, we can decide what museum to put him in. One thing is for sure, it's time for Snoopy's boat 10 to retire, and for Snoopy to sail Boat 11, that has been "waiting in the wings" for years :-)

Here is a list of things planned, and things we should not forget to do:

Italics such as "OK" indicate that progress has been made, and recorded in the Blog below. If anyone thinks of something else, please email me :-)

video of Picaxe Robot Boat autopilot

15th October 2016: Picaxe 28X2 Autopilot software version AP28X2F.BAS 15Oct16 created by copying version AP28X2E used in Eric's Boat 12, to sail around Goldsworth Park Lake. Comments were added to the front, but changes to the code not yet made. First changes are expected to be speaking the new version and date, removal of the Goldsworth Park waypoints, and putting back those used for "Tea-Tray Testing" in Armitage Court. Peter, Dick, Roy and Terry, were sent a copy for thir information and possible review.

The Boat 12 Autopilot was switched on, after being dormant for months. The Globalsat BR355-S2 seems to have retained it's settings, like Static Navigation being OFF, because it did what it should: random rudder movements, indicating the required movement sensitivity. Boat 11, in the garden, was weighed, and found to be 11.9 kg. This will increase, but hopefully not to Boat 10's 16 kg !

Picaxe 28X2 tea tray tests 16th October 2016: Robin & June visited Bray Lake and spoke to Andy (Simon's deputy). Email exchange later, with permision to do. You will see problems in some of the recent videos of Bray Lake Tests. Boats 11 and 12 have deeper keels. Vegetation obstructs filming. A "Tea Tray" Picaxe 28X2 Autopilot was plugged together, based on spares, including the 28X2, Globalsat GPS, Servo, and Text-To-Speech unit. The software AP28X2F.BAS was updated to 16 October, including changing the startup speech to say "28X2 Autopilot 16 October 2016" after the usual waggle of the servo. After a few seconds, it then went into the normal 7 second control cycle, steering to the default Bray Lake waypoint A and saying things like, "Time is 2001, Speed is 0.3 knots, on course of 80, Target Alpha is 7 miles, at 349, turn left by 91". More spares have been ordered: three Globalsat BR355-S4 from Digigomart at 30.30 GBP each; One Parallax Emic 2 TTS for 90.90 GBP, half of which is shipping from the USA. Depending on power, we might consider the cost of having a TTS on the boat that makes the attempt, with a suitable GSM based "spy tracker" like the Pocket Pal on the AVL page. e.g. to listen in to any conversations Snoopy might have to those nearby, or the sound of him hitting rocks ! :-)

Below are Snoopy's boats, all fitted with experimental Autopilots. From Left to right: Boat6, Boat11, Eric's IOM Boat12, and little "Affinity". We may begin by testing with Eric's Boat 12 which already has a Picaxe 28X2 based Autopilot. This could be a better boat for first investigations, with Bray Lake Tests, of things like analysing steering errors, and those "tweaks" mentioned above. See RB12Blog" How we built Boat 12 from Eric's IOM, including the Picaxe 28X2 Autopilot, and Eric's Page. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

all Snoopy's robot boats Monday 17th October 2016: The latest 28X2 Autopilot software will be loaded into Boat 11, for 2017, but may also be tested in other boats, such as Boat 12. But before that, we can do useful tests at home, including how the velocity accuracy of the new Globalsat BR355-S2 compares with that of the old BR355 used for years. First step was to see what Autopilots we have in the boats, in addition to that now on a Tea Tray:

Boat6 ( yellow on left ): plugging in a TTS unit and switching on, made it speak "Autopilot for 28X2, 12th March 2016". Looking inside the Autopilot box we could see no compass and the old Globalsat BR355 GPS, used in all previous attempts. Looking at the "Change History" in the code, we can see that AP28X2D was after having two 24/7 waypoints on Bray Lake instead of one. AP28X2E removed Armitage Court waypoint, to make space for Goldsworth Park ones. i.e. our latest AP28X2F should be the same as that in Boat 6, other than the GPS. Boat6 then settled down into it's control cycle, steering to Bray Lake "A", saying speed was either 0.0 or 0.1 knots. This implies our old BR355 may have been accurate to 0.1 of a knot. i.e, direction errors no more than 45 degrees at 0.1 knots, decreasing to below 10 degrees above 0.5 knots real speed. Maybe the new BR355-S2 will be better: hence our wish for tests on this speed accuracy soon.

Boat 11 Box in October 2016 Boat 11 (in middle): IMPORTANT NOTE: THE RUDDER LEVER GRUB SCREW WAS COMPLETELY LOSE, WITH RUDDER FLAPPING ABOUT ! Perhaps I did this sometime, without remembering to tighten it up with the required Allen Key ? Now fixed, and all of this rudder linkage will be changed anyway. e.g. two clamped Z-links. It was easier to see that Boat11 had a new BR355-S2 GPS because of the blue transparent Autopilot box. When ordering they are referred to as "BR355-S2" but the plastic top is labelled "G-Star IV". The Autopilot starts up with "... 3rd May", so that means... AP28X2d - when working on Goldsworth Park waypoints. So Boat 11 can be loaded with the latest version AP28X2F. Spoken speed, after the system had settled into it's control loop, was "0.0 knots", which is promising, reguarding improved velocity ( and therefore direction ) accuracy of this later model of GPS.

Affinity video Eric's IOM Boat 12 ( with blue sails ): This also has a Picaxe 28X2 + BR355-S2 Autopilot. It starts up with "12th May 2016", indication version AP28X2E, after correction of Goldsworth Park waypoints. This can also be replaced by latest version AP28X2F.BAS. It also gives "... 0.0 knots ..." when running on our front drive.

Last, but not least, little "Affinity", just 0.65 metres long, and Snoopy's most recent robot boat featured on Eric's Page including it doing the Bray Lake Test ! I could not resist copying the Youtube video to here: check it out on the right ! :-) Affinity has the same Picaxe 08M2 + old BR-355 GPS used in recent Atlantic Attempts, including that in October 2016. It settles down into it's control loop, speaking directions and steering to Bray Lake. It does not speak speed because memory was so tight - even the startup title was cut down to only "15 2" !

Boats 11 & 12 had the latest AP28X2F software loaded into their Picaxe 28X2 Atopilots. All four boats are ready for tests ! :-)

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Peter's Test Rig test for 28X2 28X2 Tea Tray Test video Wednesday 19th October 2016: Great progress today, and the most important work was done by other members of our Team. Click on the pictures to enlarge, or play video. We have a better Picaxe 08M2 based Autoplot for the 2017 boat in Affinity, but we are working on a better one, based on the Picaxe 28X2. Peter's test rig showed a bug that would have been fatal, and would have been difficult to find any other way. The picture on the left is from Peter's Software Test Rig, and compares the direction to waypoint between the good 08M2 Software used so far, and our latest experimental 28X2 version. In short: if the destination waypoint is in has different degrees of latitude/longitude as the Boat, the direction is wrong. Examination of the code showed this was due to a block of code that is not needed anyway ! It simply speaks the distance to the waypoint in this situation. Range is not used for navigation and steering - only information for us to monitor the progress. Removing this code will also free up a lot of memory. Well Done Peter ! Others are also helping, but the other sign of some visible progress was Robin's first "Tea Tray Test" near his home, with new test hardware like a wide angle Mobius camera. Check out the youtube video. Other such tests will follow, as we make software changes and test them.

Here is a plot of tt191016.nme from the GPS Logger on the Tea Tray, using GPSS on a Windows & PC. We can make the picture smaller later.

28X2 Tea Tray Test GPS Logger plot

The latest 19Oct16 version of the experimental AP28X2F.BAS was given to those helping test it. It's now in the Tea Tray system. Changes include removing that unwanted block of code and using a software switch based on startup to always apply rudder trim: not just when the target heading error is greater than 30 degrees. Bray Lake Tests will see if it shows an improvement.

Friday 11th November 2016: Geocaching Boat 11 servo linkage Three weeks without time spent on robot boat 11, other than the valuable chats with our extended Team-Joker. Click on the animated picture on the left for my Bigger Picture page. I guess the time I have available for Snoopy's robot boat averages less than a day per week, over the year, including discussion, building, and testing - mostly testing. I need to spend my time where it matters. Although priority is given to discussion over a coffee or beer ;-) Chats with Eric, John and Terry prompted me to change that rudder servo linkage on Boat 11 - while I remembered ! The rudder shaft has not (yet) been changed, for a bigger diameter one, but it DOES now have a flat filed on the shaft, to receive the grub screw. It has also been changed to the double Z-bend, clamped by terminal block parts. Camcorder problem fixed - found a hidden switch. I have updated the firmware in four new Globalsat BR-355 S4, including applying the patch (www.gpss.co.uk/rbpatch.zip), setting Static Navigation OFF, and setting to NMEA at 4800 with only $GPRMC sentences. See documentation near end of BlogX. I did find that cable, but only after returning from Maplins (and Bray Lake) with parts to make up the cable ! I've ordered another SPOT Trace, at 84 GBP delivered from Globaltelesatcoms. I put together a Picaxe 08M2 / BR-355 S4 based Autopilot, and this is now in Boat 11, loaded with AUTOP10.BAS.

Boat 11 crack Monday 14th November: As is often the case, it's not the technical stuff that requires time: click on that picture on the right. An enormous crack has appeared, in the weeks that Boat 11 was left in the back garden. It seems that the fibreglass deck, so carefully put down, and glued with fast-glass resin to the original fibreglass hull, may have lifted, allowing water to seep in to the foam that fills the hull. There is probably no alternative than to strip off the whole lot, including the solar panels - tempting as it may seem to simply fill the crack. Fedex just delivered the spare SPOT Trace, ordered from Globaltelesatcoms, so now I can risk modification to the one I have. e.g. drilling into the case to supply 5v power from external solar power.
Tuesday 15th November: Terry visited to discuss his "GPS Simulator" work. Gave him a BR355-S2. His is USB, not serial. Patch ZIP URL now above.

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Wednesday 16th November: 08M2 Autopilot Parallax Emic-2 TTS 08M2 Autopilot Soldered up another Picaxe 08M2 Autopilot, but with the later Globalsat BR-355 S2 GPS. It all fits in the lid of a plastic pill box, the remainder simply acting as a "stand" to keep it above any water that gets into the main box of electronics. The only difference with Autopilots in earlier years is the GPS, and a minor Autoplilot Software change. AUTOP10.BAS 18th October 2016, is based on AUTP9TTS used in earlier Trans-Atlantic attempts. The startup speech says "18 October", and limiting of rudder bias is removed. This is now in Eric's IOM Boat 12, for tests on Bray Lake. Another 08M2-BR355-S2 Autopilot was squeezed into little Affinity, and the failed servo replaced. This 08M2 based autopilot will be given a good testing, as the "minimum change" solution. We can quickly swap to the the Picaxe 28X2 Autoplot, that has "a lot to say for itself", for demonstrations to journalists. There is plenty enough other work on Boat 11 to keep us busy ! :-)
17th November: Soldered up the expensive but essential Parallax Emic-2 Text-To-Speech (TTS) board.This time the loudspeaker and Emic-2 were mounted inside a plastic cap, sealed with silicon sealant, after wrapping the board in plastic. The test with a 28X2 Autopilot spoke "Terry's stoopid test program" (see 15th November above) so I reloaded AP28X2F.BAS.

Boat 12 with Lee Helm Bray Lake Test 18th November: Eric's IOM Boat 12 was given a Bray Lake Test, to check out the modified 08M2 Autopilot. Click on the pictures to see the details. It was not intentional, but the results showed clearly what happens if the sails are not trimmed correctly. Normally sail booms on both Jib and Mainsail are about 30 degrees from centre. The Jib was at 20 and the Mainsail at 40, resulting in "Lee Helm", and the steering failed to turn the boat against the wind, towards the waypoint. The first attempt caused Waypoint "D" to be hit, so the boat returned to "Base" - at about 1.85 knots, cross wind. It was re-lauched immediately, eventually hit waypoint "A", but ended up needing a rescue off the island. Next attempt will be with the sails trimmed correctly !

19th November 2016: SPOT Trace Power Modification SPOT Trace Power Modification Lots of SPOT Trace experimental work will be found in BlogX. In brief: SPOT Trace is a much neater solution than our modified SPOT Messenger that I've used for years. I'd used two NiMe AA cells, each giving ~1.82v fully charged. Now is the time to risk blowing at least one SPOT Trace up, in our quest for a simple and robust solution. Don't forget that we are not using the manufacturer's reccomended batteries ! Click on pictures to expand. My approach was to replace the two 2M screws that hold the USB socket cover, by two 2M studs, soldered to the power pads. Nuts and washers clamp the cover on, but now we can access the power. I used a 1.5mm drill to get through the plastic, but I also had to remove some plastic from where the two springs come from the 4 x AAA battery holder. Now when the SPOT Trace is assembled, you can measure the voltage of any internal batteries, and supply external (solar) power. It might be sensible to try 4 AAA NiMH cells, that fully charge to only 5.6v. However, "being sensible" was never my strong point, so let me try 4 AAA NiMe cells, giving nearer 1.82x4 = 7.28v. ... Mercifully, I had not fully charged the NiMe cells, and the voltage rapidly dropped. I put in 4 x AAA NiMH Maplin cells, and connected a female Futaba connector, so the SPOT Trace could easily have a small solar panel plugged in. This is now in the car, until I can find a better way of stimulating transmissions with movement.

Boat 12 on 22nd Nov 2016 Video of Bray Lake Tests on 22 Nov 2016 Bray Lake Tests on 22 Nov 2016 Tuesday 22nd November: Eric's IOM Boat 12 has it's sails trimmed to the more normal settings of both Jib and Mainsail booms being 30 degrees from centre. The results were much better, with three Bray Lake Tests being done in rapid succesion, within the hour. Two tests did the whole trip, Base-A-B-C-D-Base, but the third cut it short, Base-D-Base, after hitting D by accident. Click on the pictures to expand them or play the 10 minute video. Smaller adjustments are still needed to the sailing balance of the boat, to reduce that "wobble" in the path cross-wind.
Wednesday 23rd November: Text-To-Speech box moved to below Mobius camera, so it will be heard on video better.
Boat 11 in Boiler Cupboard Boat 11 5v power rails Sunday 27th November 2016: Boat 11 had 0.4 kg of bad deck removed: it consisted of fibre glass mat and Fastglass resin which had not bonded to the fibreglass hull, but had simply lifted away. See the cracked paint photo on 14th November above. Rig removed and hull left upside-down to let some water drip out ! Purchased at 30, from friendly Penton Hook Marina, a West System Epoxy Glass Fibre Boat Repair Kit. Sanded F/G areas and then put whole hull into our boiler cupboard, to warm it up and dry it. After an hour it was taken out and new fibreglass laid down with the West System epoxy - there is still some left.
Monday 28th November 2016: Epoxy had dried well overnight, so gave the new deck a coat of white International Perfection, from that left in an old can. It will be covered by sealant to glue down solar panels.
Boat 11 solar panels Tuesday 29th November 2016: Purchased three lengths of 2mm brass rod from Mantua Models as 5v power rails, for below the duplicated 6v solar panels. Replaced three bolts in rear box by larger nuts and bolts to pass power into the box. Next task will be to prepare the four solar panels: each with isolation diodes and good water protection with epoxy and yacht varnish. After soldering to the rails, they will then be glued to the deck with a liberal ammount of silicon sealant.
Wednesday 30th November 2016: Isolation diodes ( two in parallel for redundancy ) and tinned multicore copper wire was soldered to the four solar panels and they were given a quick test outside in rare sunlight: ~ 6.5v o/c and > 200mA s/c. Boat 11 solar panels glued down They were then soldered to the power rails, the two rear being on RHS and the two at front on LHS. New soldered joints were covered in West System epoxy. The underside of the solar panels was pained with yacht varnish. When dry, clear silicon sealant was smeared all over.
Boat 11 with others Thursday 1st December 2016: The solar panels were glued to the deck with silicon sealant, and held down with full bottles of wine - to be emptied later ;-)
Friday 2nd December 2016: Spent some time with experimental AP28X2G software, a "hybrid" which attempts to combine the advantages of GPS-Only and Compass steering. This is reported in BlogX. Our fall-back is still the trusty Picaxe 08M2 with later Globalsat BR-355 S2, loaded with Autopilot software AUTOP10. The old rig with rumpled sails and faded flag was put back on Boat 11. Time to make a new rig with those spare sails from Frank ?

Boat 11 duplicated switches Sunday 4th December 2016: After lots of materials shopping yesterday at Slough Radio Control Models, Model Junction, and Maplins, the main Autopilot 5v power switch was duplicated, using a Maplin IP67 Toggle Switch DPTT (N25KA) protected by a rubber Toggle Switch Cover (YL01B). Extra protection is provided by the soft drink bottle top, shaped on June's electric cooker hob (smoke did not quite trigger the alarm). Other materials include carbon fibre and brass rods and tubes, for things like the rig and non-ferrous rudder linkage. Note the change of marker pen "artwork" on the bottle tops, to provide a rearward looking friendly face.

Monday 5th December 2016: We have a problem getting our trusty Humberston Signs sticky letters to stick onto the nice new "Atlantic" IOM #3 sails from Frank of Nylet. I've used this combination on all Snoopy's boats for years, but it seems the sails are now protected. I tried superglue, but that didn't help. Boat 11 Nylet sail with Humbol sticky letters I did one side, followed by a thin cover of clear silicon sealant, which may hold the letters down. On the other side, I tried Bostick on the "ROBOT BOAT", but that was no better. However, I also covered this with clear silicon sealant.
Tuesday 6th December 2016: I tried cleaning the sail with June's Tesco Nail Polish Remover, then applying the "GPSS.CO.UK" direct - no better. Hopefully I can find a work-around. Looks as if we may then be doing weather tests, as we did years ago, with samples of labelled sail attached to our car roof rack. My last order from Humberston Signs / Snappygrafix was early in 2016, and Steve sent me a free Snoopy sticker. I've yet to decide where to stick it, but I expect my wife June will suggest somewhere ! :-)

white strip Boat 11 mast and mainsail boom Boat 11 on 20 January 2017 Boat 11 mainsail Thursday 19th January 2017: Background "experimental" work, on things like the SPOT Trace tracker power, and navigation light, is reported in BlogX . Today the carbon fibre tube for the mast and sail booms arrived from East Coast Fibreglass Supplies ( www.ecfibreglasssupplies.co.uk ) : two 2m lengths of c/f tube, 8mm OD and 4.7mm ID. Brass tube already purchased from model shops was a nice sliding fit. The mast c/f tube length was cut to 105cm, with 10cm below deck. The top of the mast is ~ 95 cm above the deck, and the mainsail boom is about 10cm. The boom length is 32cm. A triangle of brass sheet was cut, using the wife's scissors, and her kitchen hob heated the brass assembly for soldering. This holds the boom at 90 degrees to the mast, and was then filled with scrap plywood and Isopon P40. A hole was drilled to assist lacing of the mainsail. Wickes SCREW EYES 45 x 10mm, with a little duck tape, were a push fit into the c/f tube, at top of mast and end of mainsail boom.
Friday 20th January 2017: The jib with a c/f boom was added, but without the sticky letters. I placed a repeat order with Humberston Signs, because our "Christmas tidy-up" seems to mislaid the latest, stickier versions. white strip

Boat 11 Lamp system SPOT Trace Boat 11 All Boat 11 Monday 23rd January 2017: Click on the pictures to enlarge: they show the final Boat 11 Navigation Light system, before glueing it to the deck with white silicon sealant. The upside-down plastic wine glass is mounted on the sawn off top of the beer glass, to surround the 3 x AA NiMH cells and electronics. CCTV showed the light still glowing faintly after 12 hours on. To the right you see where the SPOT Trace sits in the waterproof box, with the dedicated small solar panel on the side, facing a low sun when travelling westward.

5v Power for Boat 11 5v Power for Boat 11 in box Tuesday 24th January 2017: The sticky text arrived, and despite not being quite sticky enough for Frank's sails, they should stay down after I covered them with clear silicon sealant. The Snoopy cartoon sits proudly on the hull, and Boat 11 is now outside, to see how the solar power systems behave. The boat is now ready for Bray Lake Tests, with minor tasks to do, like install the I-GotU GPS logger and batteries.

Thursday 26th January 2017: The main 5v power for the autopilot will be supplied, as in earlier years, by duplicated solar panels and N-MH packs. This time I am using Maplin AA 2400mAH cells, and putting each 4 cell pack in parallel. i.e. duplicated 4800 mAH power -> 9600mAH total. Four 4 cell packs were soldered up and glued together in a messy manner: super glue, silicon sealant, and Fastglass resin.
Boat9/10 in February 2014 Friday 27th January 2017: The four Ni-MH packs were put inside the box and wired into the three terminals providing duplicated solar power. The two sides were brought together by two pairs of diodes in parallel, for redundancy, to a fourth bolt as a 5v power monitor point. e.g. 5.06v final 5v output after diodes from 5.48v. A holder was made for the I-GotU GPS Logger, which plugs into a USB socket lead, soldered to the 5v output. The boat was put outside at 1830 to see how well the solar powered light works: we expect some sun tomorrow !
Boat 11 Box Liod artwork Saturday 28th January 2017: Boat 11 was weighed and was only 11.74 kg ! Compare this with Boat 10 at 15.9 kg in Blog5 - same size but with LOTS of repairs. I measured the waterproof box on Boat 11 to be 20cm long x 16cm wide x 10cm high, but saw that I have two spare boxes, 23.5cm L x 19cm W x 11cm H. Blog2 clearly shows that our last Boat9/Boat10 had the smaller box, Described as "FIBOX TA201610T Enclosure", when the boat had a major rebuild in February 2014. See old picture on left. Think of all those Atlantic Attempts it survived, 2013 ... 2016. No wonder it ended up being so heavy !
Boat 11 Lamp Sunday 29th January 2017: The box lid artwork was kept simple, following those classic KISS Principles: Keep It Simple, Stupid ! from Snoopy's Design page. Tests on the new navigation light showed it not staying on for more than a few hours, even after a sunny day. The three highly discharged 2000mAH AA cells were replaced by fully charged 2400mAH Ni-MH cells, but these faded too.
Tuesday 31st January 2017: The 9 LED assembly was replaced by the lower power 3 LED one, used in recent years. However, the same two solar panels, switching electronics, and 3 x AA 2400 mAH Ni-MH cells were retained, rather than the 2 x AA 2000 MAH cells. This all fitted within the upturned plastic wine glass and was bright when switched on at 1800.
Boat 11 Test Equipment Thursday 2nd February 2017: The lamp now works well enough: was still bright at 0730 after over 20 hours on. Dropped by 0.5v from 4.12v to ~ 3.6v in 12 hours. Put outside in overcast conditions, to see how well the two small solar panels work. Autopilot "work" will be reported in BlogX. e.g. latest 08M2 based autopilot and the new "Hybrid" 28X2 version.
Friday 3rd February 2017: Boat 11 is ready for Bray Lake Tests with a Picaxe 08M2 Autopilot loaded with AUTOP10.BAS. For details see "BlogX" above.
Saturday 4th February 2017: The same test equipment will be used on Bray Lake as in previous years: 1) the Text-To-Speech (TTS) that makes the Autopilot talk. 2) the FM-transmitter "bug" that permits this to be heard on a transistor radio back on the shore. 3) the GPS Logger that records position and speed every second, onto an SD card, for GPS plots and analysis. 4) A Mobius camera to record video and speech on the boat. The TTS with it's loudspeaker was placed at the front of the box. 4 screw hooks were fixed into the deck, and a piece of light weight plywood waterproofed with fastglass resin and paint. The mainsail boom JUST misses the camera. Two large elastic bands hold the FM Transmitter bug and GPS Logger boxes. A minor software change was made to AUTOP10.BAS for the Picaxe 08M2 Autopilot, adopting the same voice as that in AP28X2G.BAS. i.e. louder, higher pitched, and faster. The only other change was the startup words, "4th of Feb 2017" instead of the old "18th October" (2016). I try to avoid software changes, but we should hear clearer speech. white strip

Other stuff ...

See "BlogX", describing background experimental work from 2008 until now. See Recce, Compass and Software pages. Play the July 2014 video of Snoopy's Robot Boat Race to see how well Snoopy's 2014 boat 10 did against the smaller experimental boat 6. white strip

Snoopy's Bray Lake Test ... sail 530 metres automatically, through 5 waypoints ...


Bray Lake used for testing of the robot boats

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