Mechanical sailing for the win!

If you have been following our blog posts over the last years, you will know: Software is full of errors and waterproofing electronics is a pain! We are excited to announce that this year we will take a completely novel approach to the world robotic sailing championship this year, which will solve all our problems. We are going fully mechanical with our newest mechanical robot DaVinci, gearing up to be victorious!

Mechanical Robot concept

How will this work you ask? Over the last two months we have designed gearboxes that will implement the rudder and sail motions for all manoeuvres we need: Tacking, jibing, and keeping a heading. Before any competition event, we will pre-program the heading and distance the vehicle has to go between each waypoint. We have made a simulation of the gearboxes, which allows us to test our settings beforehand. To make our sailing robot more accurate than ever, we incorporate the rotation of an anemometer at the top of our boat and the rotation of a current measuring wheel below our boat. A faster spinning anemometer decreases the time between manoeuvres, allowing the DaVinci to consider the speed of the wind and thus its own speed. The spinning speed and direction of the current measuring wheel corrects the heading settings. To increase stability and improve the tacking capability of our boat, we added two spinning wheels. One to keep the boat from heeling, spinning in the horizontal plane. A second wheel to help with keeping a constant heading, which is also actuated to support rudder actions.

Wind anemometer detail

With the system described above, we are convinced we can better solve the racing, area scanning and position keeping tasks. The obstacle avoidance though is a larger challenge. Our main plan are four long whiskers. Thanks to the physics of leaver arms, a light touch on the obstacles at a very long distance will be enough to induce a small, strong torque motion on DaVinci which will set in motion our obstacle avoidance. Should the touching of the whiskers count as a collision, our alternative plan is to resign to using a camera with a servo motor to integrate the camera results in our mechanics.

Of course, we are not completely rid of the problems caused by operating in salt water. To avoid crystallized salt clogging up our gears, we will use de-ionised water. With the relatively short missions of the sailing robot this should be sufficient protection.

Now the implementation starts: This week we are starting to 3D print the gear parts that have lower torque on them and won`t be under a lot of stress. The higher stress parts will be machined from aluminium, or where needed from stainless steel at the EDMC. Keep an eye on our blog for future posts explaining the intricate details of our gear design, our manufacturing progress and details on our simulation.

Veni, Vidi, Vi(n)ci!