Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Raspberry Pi Crossing the Atlantic

I have considered buying a Raspberry Pi quite a few times in the last few months. At $25-$35 it makes for an ultra-cheap computer with which to do silly things. So far I have been held back from buying one because I just haven't seen a lot of projects which are the caliber of what I see on the Arduino. That, and unlike the Arduino the hardware is not open source which will ultimately limit the ability of people to tinker with it.

Still, if anything makes me change my mind it is that this guy is planning an attempt at crossing the Atlantic ocean with a home-made solar powered boat twenty inch long boat. The boat will be fully autonomous crossing the ocean without major input from anyone. Now, I join with many in thinking that this will fail. It doesn't look like his boat is robust enough to make the trip and this is still in the thought process phase. Still, I feel like I could actually have a shot at doing this for under $1000 and a few hundred hours of tinkering.

None of the technology is all that difficult, GPS autopilots are widely available and open source. Solar power modules that can survive a year at sea shouldn't be a real challenge, a motor which can survive the trip might take some real thought for selection but I don't imagine that there is any shortage of motors which can survive a year or so at sea.

The hardest part would probably be tracking it. It would need to send regular signals reporting where it is. Then you have to manage to be in the right place at the right time to pick it up. You would also depend on good weather when it is near shore or it will wash up on shore somewhere. I suspect the route will need to stay five miles or more from shore until the last rush into a calm port.

As for the Raspberry Pi, if I was to take on a similar project I feel like an Arduino Mega might be sufficient. After all it is pretty easy to buy GPS shields for them and the autopilots are freely available. I suppose the ability to take and store photos would be the only real area where the Raspberry Pi might come out ahead.

What this will do to drug traffic should be interesting. I would think one could be made to look like a floating log or piece of trash quite easily.

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