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back to article Raspberry Pi to skipper microship across Atlantic

Raspberry Pi's journey to punters pockets has hardly gone swimmingly, but as it prepares to cross the Atlantic in a homemade autonomous boat - aptly dubbed FishPi - the budget Linux PC continues to make quite a splash in the tech pool. FishPi - the brainchild of enthusiast Greg Holloway - is a 20in long vessel that navigates …

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Awesome

Not sure if that prop will be enough though, the currents in certain areas can get quite strong, and the size of the boat, all it'd take is a strong wave and it'll go under.

Still I wish it the best while it prepares for its voyage.

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Re: Awesome

Can fill the spaces with expanding foam, which should keep it floating. Make sure it has a low center of gravity and it will self right. As long as theres not to much round the bits that get warm, it will be fine.

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A smuggler's dream?

Wow, an indetectably small, self-powered, autonomous vessel that can be programmed with a destination then just pushed off and it finds its own way there. Best of all, it's cheap. I wonder if the designer will be inundated with orders from exactly the sort of customers he doesn't want to deal with - but finds it impossible (or just unhealthy) to turn away.

That is, if it doesn't fall foul of the Gulf Stream and end up in Norway.

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Mushroom

Re: A smuggler's dream?

Or a terrorists. Scale it up a bit, stuff it full of C4, make sure it only just floats (for low observability) and send out a swarm of 300 to sit in the mid-ocean shipping lanes. Or into a submarine base.

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Stop

Tupperware

Really not up to the job - a lot of geocaches use tupperware, and the water always manages to get in - even the snap lock variant. Most geocachers use a plastic bag inside the tub to make sure everything stays dry.

Other than that, looks great. Hope they find space for a transmitter so we can track it's voyage.

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Re: Tupperware

Hopefully, its just the tupperware for testing and some better sealing for the trip. It would be a bugger to break the silicon sealant ever time you want to do a download.

Downside of giving us a live tracker is some selfish prat will find it and mess with it.

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Go

Re: Tupperware

You know, this sort of input is usually reserved for the El Reg SPB.

We've conquered space, next stop the ocean! Maybe we could have a Pi powered mini sub exploring an ocean trench - wouldn't that be awesome? =D

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Re: Tupperware

Ocean trench mini-sub. That would be pretty awesome.

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JDX
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Joke?

This won't make it more than a mile the moment the wind reaches F5 or above.

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Happy

Re: Joke?

I'm surprised you got downvoted for that comment. It was my second thought after, "whoever designed that has never sailed across an ocean." Oh, and I reckoned force 3 would be too much. Especially with a fetch that covers the atlantic.

And I have sailed across an ocean. The chances of getting even as far as the scillies without exceeding F3 are diminishingly small.

Best of luck though, far bigger budgetted projects have already failied this endeavour. (Although that in itself is of course not an indicator of the prospects for this one).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Joke?

The image in the story is the bod's proof of concept / learn robotics as it applies to water / find out how shit works vehicle.

It's not intended to go further than the local duck pond.

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g e
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Excellent project

Best of British to it!

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Anonymous Coward

They must have a special Pi, or a good watchdog circuit. My Pi's kernel panics daily (yes, I have good power,etc)

I suspect it's USB related so they may want to keep away from using that.

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Pi kernel panics

Sounds like you've managed to fry your board, or a compnent on it somewhere. My own Pi has had uptimes of over a week between boots, and then I've shut it down normally to refresh the disk image (and that's using the bleeding edge OpenELEC images, not the Debian stable images, with which I've had no stability issues either). Two usb devices plugged in, ethernet networking and an hdmi cable running at full HD.

No panics here!

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Kernel Pi-nics

> I suspect it's USB related

Could well be. My usually tame (if slow) Pi took an instant dislike to a cheap and nasty self-powered USB hub that I tried connecting to it. I didn't have to have anything plugged into the hub, it's mere presence on the USB was enough to turn the Pi into Crumble.

All the other hubs I've tried have been fine - just that one seem to cause problems.

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Anonymous Coward

Itanium

Not sure about the Pi, but an Intel Itanium powered ship would be an awesome project.

They're going cheap these days, right?

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Coat

Re: Itanium

You *do* read the Reg right..? The chip renamed the Itanic..?? :-D

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Happy

Re: Itanium

The SS Itanic ?

Awesome... perhaps not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Itanium

See that blob over there? No, over there, there, on the horizon...

...that was the point.

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@NogginTheNog

Beware the Intel fanbois - they may not be many but they are keen.

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Mushroom

Re: Itanium

These days on my job, when I want to say we should get rid of someone something, I suggest we "wrap it to an Itanium server and throw it to the river".

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Best of luck on your voyage

Although having skimmed a few boats of similar size I fear it's Davy Jones locker bound.

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I'm not a nautical type, but I know boats have been able to automatically maintain a compass bearing since at least the forties. If it were just to cross the Atlantic, could it just be told to head West, or does it need to head against the currents?

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Happy

Indeed

If it heads west at 1 knot, and gets caught in a current heading north at 1 knot, then its route will be northwest.(*) A GPS allows it to navigate to course over ground for the shortest route. This would start off at something like 280 degrees and finish at something like 250 degrees to follow the great circle route.

If I was them though, i'd forget the great circle route and choose a tradewind route. The prop wont power it.

+/- adjustments for wind / routing etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Soon as this is out of sight of land it will be boarded by Pirates who'll take the Pi and stick it on Ebay!

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Anonymous Coward

The Ebay Pi market not very profitable anymore, they're going for ~ £50, less Ebay/Paypal fee plus the usual time wasters. You end up making a tenner, if that.

Fortunately I got in when the hype was running high (not intentionally, the Pi just wasn't for me)

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Pirate

Pirates!

They will board it and add a huge disk array full of goodies and a sat link. Yarr!

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Joke

Pirates?

But I thought the point of the Raspberry Pi was that all the software was Open Source!

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Anonymous Coward

Proof-of-concept stage?

... Really? To me it looks like a boat that's been built in a garden shed that someone has placed their lunch box on with a Pi placed inside it... No wires, no batteries, no solar panels, no steering rods, no propeller, no.....nothing.

If I go and dig out one of my sons polystyrene planes (you know, the slot together ones) and place my Pi next to it, could this be viewed as a PoC for flying across the Atlantic - I'll call it the PiPlane and submit to the internet.

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Anonymous Coward

You're missing out on the whole point of this

The whole project is obviously a just marketing ploy playing on Pi homophone-of Pie meme. It doesn't need to work, it's PR purpose is done.

PiPlane completely FAILS at this essential pre-requisite.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're missing out on the whole point of this

Call it Pi-In-The-Sky, and you've got a winner :)

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Vic
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Re: You're missing out on the whole point of this

> PiPlane completely FAILS at this essential pre-requisite

Doesn't that rather depend on how many wings it has?

Vic.

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Joke

Re: Proof-of-concept stage?

Surely you should call it the Pi-Lot :P

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Joke

Re: Proof-of-concept stage?

Nah, just call it the Pigeon-Pi...

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Thumb Up

A page out of the PARIS/LOHAN book

Is there an El Reg special nautical bureau?

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Go

Re: A page out of the PARIS/LOHAN book

Indeed. Now all we need is the gaffer tape.... I know I had a roll around here somewhere...

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Too small?

At this size, it will only travel at 1 - 1 1/4 knots maximum speed. Will that be enough to outdo any currents and wind? Due to stability considerations, the solar cells will be fairly close to the water - more susceptable to being covered in salt and debris (reduction in power), and water damage.

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Re: Too small?

Well, people manage to row across the Atlantic at similar speeds.

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JDX
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Re: Too small?

I don't think rowers travel at only 1knot. Also, a rowing boat is less susceptible to being blown backwards by the slightest breeze...

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Anonymous Coward

American Pie

I turned mine into an American Pie and regularly give it a good fucking, as Linus told me to do to all proprietary GPU companies with binary only drivers.

Those GPIO pins get a bit too prickly though.

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hmmmm...

I can see these becoming highly desirable for remote delivery of contraband...

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Happy

wonderful idea (though sadly doomed)

I've sailed across the Atlantic a couple of times, and reckon that if their programming were sufficient and they were very lucky the trade winds would do the vast majority of the work, if their setting off point was one of the canary islands. That way all the motor needs to do is to try to correct their course rather than bother making way.

The downside as I see it from the design is that the boat would spend most of it's time on it's side or upside down as the Atlantic rollers did their best to destroy the Tupperware. Thus it's little motor would do most of it's spinning when it had no resistance (was out of the water) and it's PV battery would spend not very long getting light to power the motor. I'd suggest more of a tube design surrounded by PV with 3 rotors that only operated when they were at the lowest point (mercury switch or gyro) so as not to waste power, and you'd need a rudder behind each one to give it something to steer with. The tube would also be a stronger design and should be easier to seal to prevent the water and salt getting in (as it inevitably will on boats).

Sadly this design is going to be smashed apart and sunk very quickly. Those rolling waves are generally 20' from tip to trough in the sorts of force 4-5 you usually see in the mid Atlantic. Also if they tried to set either design off from Blighty (or anywhere in mainland Europe for that matter) it wouldn't have the power to get past the tides let alone make any reasonable headway. The propulsive force here has to be the trade winds.

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I can see this ending in tears...

If this works, I suspect the English channel will become clogged with hoards of little self navigating boats trundling across from Amsterdam and all the way up the river Cam with supplies.

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Pint

The power of Pi

The Pi seems to draw somewhere between 200mA and 500mA which is quite hefty for this application and there doesn't seem to be any ultra-low power or 'sleep' modes of operation and nor is it particularly geared-up for power loss or power monitoring. It requires a mechanically attached SDHC Card for the OS which will likely prove far more problematic than soldered-on or in-chip flash memory. Most of what a Pi offers would seem to be redundant here, HDMI, USB, LAN, and what GPIO it does have is quite limited.

A traditional micro would seem to have been far more suitable. But good luck anyway; "because you can".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The power of Pi

> The Pi seems to draw somewhere between 200mA and 500mA

With two plugged in USB peripherals it's up to 800ma; but that's basically nothing compared to the what his motor will be drawing.

The other problem I can see is that the Pi doesn't (yet) seem to have a real time kernel available, so latency might become a huge issue.

It's still cool though....

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Re: The power of Pi

It does sound like a bit of overkill... I can't help thinking an ATmega could read a serial GPS and control a rudder/motor perfectly well for only a few milliamps.

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More Excellent Reporting from El Reg

If the author had actually bothered to do some research instead of simply scraping the front page of the raspberryPi.org homepage - you know, something radical like going to the homepage of the FishPi project everyone would be aware that the boat in question is simply a proof of concept to see if it can be made to work and will be spending its life on considerably smaller bodies of water than the Atlantic - such as the local boating lake.

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Looks like a greenhouse

I'd be a bit worried that that tupperware was going to act like a greenhouse and 'bake' the RPi quite quickly. Although given that it's still raining outside maybe that wont be a problem on a uk duck pond.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More Excellent Reporting from El Reg

Never underestimate the ability of Register commentards to pass judgement on subjects of which they have only a passing knowledge of... ;-)

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