SolarSurfer Continuation Project

Thanks Kevin,
It’s great to hear you guys will soon have a proper solution for sonar depth finding.
See below current solution; it does work, but as I’m not thinking only do this ones, a device without moving parts and optical risks would be much better.

You might be interested in the low-drag thruster deflector I has made in China. It supposed to fit tight over outside diameter, but they made it a few mm to big. I think that’s not a problem, and I’m planning to fill the distance, and fixate, by hot glue gun. As outside-ring gets smaller at the backside, this should prevent the deflector from ability to be pulled-off to the front. But maybe I can find a better solution with small clips. I had to invest in tooling just to get some samples (luckily I have good contacts in the Shenzhen wire mesh industry), and have a reasonable MOQ.
I will update after start assembling it with the T200.

Hello, I have been following the forum for a long time but it is the first time I have written, since I saw the project I wanted to build my own boat controlled by satellite, I have enough knowledge of electronics but not much programming.

more than 5 months ago I build in a boat of 2 meters in length, 4 solar panels of 100w each, with a T200 thruster, 2 batteries lifepo4 12v 50AH, the rudder driven by a linear actuator (Actuonix L16-R Micro Linear Servos ), and all controlled by pixhawk with the software ardupilot.

for telemetry I have used the rfd900 + modems although I have not reached distances greater than 1.5 miles (far from the 40km I expected).

all this has worked well, although there are still things to improve, but the most important thing is the satellite communication, I used the envirover software SPL Global Telemetry | Envirover docs and it worked, but I have had problems with communication, sometimes I lose connection with the boat for periods of more than 2 hours, and this does not feel good.

the envirover team has been very kind, and they have oriented me, I am waiting for a new version to try it, I hope I do not have the problems I said before.

Finally I have recently seen that the px4 device connects the rockblock module directly to the pixhwak.

I find it very interesting because it does not use the RPI3, I think that there are less chances of failure, although I see that the px4 dont have much information for boats or rovers.

Which option will be more secure? soon I upload photos of my project to receive recommendations.

Hi Kevin

Sounds great you are working on a depth sounder solution! Are you able to share some of the thinking?

  • is it depth readings only available in Python or is it more of a sea floor image?
  • what sort of operational depth limits could it scan and how deep could it go?
  • how would it attach to BlueRov 2 ? Would it require a heavy configuration or payload skid or basic BlueRov2 setup?
  • what sort of price range?
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@deepsouth Nothing more to share right now until it is released other than “its coming.”

Worth a try :grinning:

I have some progress on Solar USV “Mike”.
Hull and Deck parts are laminated. This is Epoxy/glass.

I keep an eye on “Project Mahi” from a Belgian team, attempting to cross the Atlantic, around the same time I hope to launch for the Pacific.
Also the guys from angusadventures in Canada have oceanic solar USV plans for next year. 2019 looks promising.

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The hull is looking good!

Cas it looks like you are making good progress. I’m also working on these goals and hope to launch next spring. So far I’ve been able to test on lake Champlain and fine tune the autopilot. Next big hurdle for me is satellite communication. Like Bolivar, I am hoping to use the envirover software for this.

A few build pics are available here: SkyViewCustoms - Champlain Explorer

Keep up the good work!



Hi Ryan,
Aha, so an other boat to track next spring…
As you know, the Microtransat Challenge has been won by Norwegians few months ago, yet by auto sailing. To cross the Atlantic on solar alone is the new race!
What happened to the aluminum welded boat? Difficult to make watertight?
I’ll use a Rockblock as well, but by use of Raspb.Pi and Python. A lot can be found for that combination, but I haven’t started with that yet.


Hello Cas,

Yes we are now competing in the solar version of this race! Honestly, I would be thrilled just to make it across. So many things can prevent that from happening.

The aluminum version was designed before I had a firm understanding of boat building principles. I am learning as I go. The composite version, the version you see here, is much lighter in weight and is more streamlined. The COG/COB is improved which helps the stability of the boat.

I don’t have the programming skills to successfully build my own autopilot. That’s why I am trying to use the envirover solution. I will be interested to see what you come up with for the satellite link.

Good luck!


For navigation and communication, I’m using Pi3B with:

You don’t need special programming skills to use Python on a Pi. It’s really easy to learn.
For navigating an USV, you need no more than basic high school trigonometry. “Pygame” for Python is useful and easy to draw simulated sailing on screen.
I’m not an IT guy, and for me all the set-up Pi commands for this connected hardware give the most trouble, but there are plenty of people on the Internet to help with that.

I’m in the (4ever) final software testing phase of Mike the USV, and still aiming for a trans Pacific trip this summer.
I changed the bow thruster from a T100 to a T200, because according the specs, it is much more efficient at lower thrust.
However, the new T200 I bought for this a few months ago, “feels” different than the one I bought last year. That is, if rotating the propeller by hand, the magnetic friction “bumps” are with the new one clearly much “less” than the older one.
Does this mean that the specs from steering Newton to PWM are changed as well? It’s rather important, because the PWM for a certain thrust is calculated by my software, based on the chart info on product webpage.

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Hi @CasTh,

There have been no changes to the T200 design or production in the past year, so they should perform identically. There were few months were this cogging felt different from other thrusters, but this was further in the past and did not affect performance.


There is still ongoing work on USV Mike.

Currently doing durability test in my living room, with a small water bin doubling as ocean, running the propelling and the steering T200s.

Lots of time spent on getting affordable high Amp latching relays for switching charging and power between the 6 sets of Lifepo4 batteries. Further setback on ADC of Arduinos for 24 cell voltages monitoring, which give sometimes random readouts, so need to be reset if that happens.

Then weeks lost in finding the right air pump, for the hoses vacuum drawing and filling again. Cheap aquarium pumps break down fast, so I’m now testing with an industrial one.

My “self-made” sonar dept meter for Raspberry Pi broke down, and I choose not use for this boat the Bluerobotics one, because that would mean again lots of extra time lost. So my idea of “raids” to islands I have to let go partly as current goal is mainly to test the whole principle of bow thruster steering, with an attempt to cross the Pacific ocean in the process.

I’m already looking in the near future, and am in full development of an adaptation under the boat, to do (and offer) autonomous 3D shallow reef monitoring, with use of gimballed Stereopi, auto underwater camera dome cleaning, and long distance wifi.

“Oneweb” say the will offer satellite internet by 2022, by use of a relative small antenna. If that might be so, it won’t be hard to adjust for unlimited remote 3D streaming snorkeling as well.



Mike was finished last week, and a floating and self righting test was done in a dedicated swimming pool.
The good news is that this design floats as expected, which is not easy to predict by nature of design. After foaming front and back, it’s obviously not possible to move stuff around in the hull to balance all out.

The pneumatic self righting system worked better than expected; I expected that extra weight would be needed to glue under the boat to lower center of gravity, but the roll-back happened at about 80% of emptied hoses:

That is good to know for further development.
Yet something wend terrible wrong in the pool, a few hours after these test. I let him try to sail to America, holding him back in the pool; that all started OK, and I got good reply by RockBlock; all battery voltages OK, GPS OK etc. And than the boat died.
Because of the foam, it’s very hard to find out why. Maybe water-leak, maybe overheating?
I’m not going to give up, but focus now on a similar platform, but with the (more commercial) aim of having a unlimited Reef Monitoring system, using StereoPi and Ping Sonar.

To prove that steering by bow thruster alone is possible on the high seas, I had let done some simulations:

Hi everyone,

First of all, this has been an extremely informative thread so thank you very much for letting me join. I did not see any of these projects listed on the MicroTransat site, so I am wondering if anyone has attempted a long water crossing. If so, can you please share your learnings from that?

I am currently in the design phase now. Structurally, it will look very similar to most of these projects. I plan to use a single solar panel, a single thruster T200 without any modification at first, rudder steering, and a fiberglass wrapped 150 foam hull/keel. Hoping to begin building in December, and begin testing on Lake Michigan in the spring.

I was wondering if any of you could please review my parts list below and offer suggestions (ie. is the product high quality, do you know of something better/cheaper, etc)?

Thanks in advance and cheers!

  • Eric

After Covid and lots of redesign and tooling, the next Mike USV prototype is near complete, and ready for sea trials. As you see, the idea of a fully foamed-in, 2 parts hull is gone (dumb idea; can’t make repairs) and there is now 1 big carbon panel deck, sealed on a fiberglass hull.

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Here a closeup of the self-cleaning dome, with the gimbal stabilized cameras for underwater stereoscopic photos and videos.