AROO: The Autonomous Sailing Robot

An Autonomous Robot for Oceanic Observation (AROO) has been a research goal of mine for several years and finally I have a working prototype. The idea of an autonomous sailing boat is not new, and several people have written web pages and built simple versions before, but nobody has really run with the idea. I am aiming to design and build a sailing robot capable of remaining at sea for long periods of time (ideally around 6 months) before requiring servicing. This would open up a number of applications for oceanic observation and environmental monitoring at relatively low cost.

I include a few pictures below to give an idea of what the 1.5 metre prototype looks like. I have recently heard that I am to receive funding for the purchase of a custom-built 3 metre version of the robot (construction to commence in early 2006). The prototype was constructed on a shoestring from scavenged components from other systems in our laboratory. It works reasonably well, but is not a thing of beauty in engineering terms.
It sails reasonably well on a small lake in winds up to around 40mph and waves up to about 30cm high. I have not tested it at sea yet: partly because I don't want to risk losing it until I have done more extensive tests in a relatively benign environment (the lake).

Image of boat on lake with wind turbines in backgroundBoat lying on ground