Progress update – Fully functional electronics

I’ve allowed too much time to pass since the last post, a lot of progress has been made since the last one.

Cleaner electronics layout
Cleaner electronics layout

The box with all the computing components has been cleaned up. We tested the current setup thoroughly and discovered some changes that need to be made to the custom circuit boards we use. More on that further down.

Better handling of power connections
Better handling of power connections

Part of the key was looking at how we managed power connections to all the components. We added boards with lots of connectors on them for powering components. Before that everything had to be screwed into the posts in the middle, which turned out to be really difficult to manage.

Support unit
Secondary Arduino support unit

We added a second Arduino (computer) to the electronics to handle some time-critical events that would have made programming difficult on the main Arduino. But the one pictured above is just for getting the prototype figured out, we have sent a new circuit board for manufacturing that will integrate the chip below.

A much smaller version of the secondary arduino
A much smaller version of the secondary arduino

We’re really looking forward to getting the circuit board that this smaller Arduino will fit into. It will clean up the electronics even further and allow more room for a couple other components we want to add.

One of the challenges, is knowing the position of the motors that control the sails, and exactly how much they are turning at any given time. We added a very accurate optical encoder unit to the bottoms of our motors. This way any movement will show up in the software that runs the boat.

Motor with encoder assembly attached
Motor with encoder assembly attached

Finally, here is the latest picture of the boat all set up. We performed a quick check on all the systems, and everything is turning out better than expected. All sensors and motors respond as expected, and software has been written to diagnose the state of everything so that we can be sure the boat is working when we test.

Boat in the bay for testing
Boat in the bay for testing

We plan to put the boat in the water soon. We had hoped to have the boat on the water already but have experienced some unfortunate mechanical issues. More on that in a later post.