Autonomous boats musing

I’ve been musing about international trade recently. I know some of the people involved in the excellent New dawn traders and the fair trade by sail movement.

I like Rum and coffee and the more ethical ways to obtain it the better.


I’m also a bit of a geek, and aware of how time-consuming shipping the world’s freight by sail would be.

There are people working on Autonomous solar boats, and this seems pretty interesting to me as the barrier to entry is fairly low.

A study old Yacht can be obtained relatively cheaply, the cost of solar panels are plummeting, and programming a Raspberry Pi is accessible to many people.

Project Mahi  Are working on a custom designed boat,

I’m also a fan of those such as Roger Taylor who travel long distances in small boats

How hard would it be to throw an autonomous boat together out of easily accessible parts?

  • Kingfisher 22 for £500 or so
  • Pi as AIS receiver £50
  • Open CPN running on the Pi £free
  • Good quality electric outboard to sit in the well £3k
  • Powerwall £5.5k
  • Filling most of the boat with closed cell foam £500
  • Thin solar panels on every surface £2k
  • Wind vane self steering £500
  • Pi controlled Actuator arm to set self-steering direction
  • Filling in the cockpit and generally making it seaworthy £2k

So not exactly small change, but for around £15k I think you could make a proof of concept autonomous boat with a cargo capacity of a couple of hundred kilograms.