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I am looking for advice on building a water surface drone for bay and estuary survey.  This would not be different from a mapping aerial drone, except it doesn't have to fly.  A large battery is no problem, so all day observations could easily be made.  Requirements:  FPV,  gps, camera--[the GoPro Hero 4 has been recommended],  possibly collision avoidance--[fishermen's nets, their canoes, mangroves, etc], controller with Large monitor screen, gps grid overlay,  pre-programmed waypoint following required, radius of survey away from controller not to exceed one mile--- more likely  a hundred to a few hundred meters, a depth sounder capable of storing gps position, time and depth --either on a S/B card, or internally for later transfer with cable to computer.  Depths usually in the less than 100 meter range-- the majority in the 2 to 20 meter range  Making the floats, installing the equipment is the easy part-- I have no idea where to buy the component parts, or exactly WHAT to buy.   Propulsion would be through a twin screw servo motors, [ one in each of the mini catamaran hulls],  as well as dual rudder control.  Operating speed 4 knots, [8 m/sec], would be ideal.  This could be accomplished with two servo 12 vdc motor turning the correct rpm.  Variable rpm required.  The camera would be mounted about 4 feet above the water to reduce spray effect.  the hulls would each be about 4 inches in beam,  [with overall beam of 4 feet],   and max of 6 to 8 inches depth, and about 8 feet long.  A very easily driven hull form for minimum resistance.  the electric/electronic components would be housed in a small water tight pod  about 18 inches above the water.  Recording would be done in less than 18 knots of wind, preferably less than 10 knots.  Wave formation would then not be a problem. The mother boat is a 21 foot survey/utility boat now operating in survey work as was done a hundred years ago--- I wish to update,  simplify, and reduce errors--[mostly human], in this survey activity.  Any help is more than welcome-- Alan Perleman has been very patient in answering my questions, but has referred me to this forum hoping to find someone who has the answers.   Thanks in advance, Don Cameron .    email:    I am in the Philippines which limits my options for the acquisition of reliable information and the purchase of the components.  I have no problem in the assembly of this project----dc


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6 hours ago, don cameron said:

I am looking for advice on building a water surface drone for bay and estuary survey.

I don't have any experience with boats but I use Ardupilot open source software for my home built UAV and I believe it also can be used for boats. 

As you will see from their doc they have different flavors of the ardupilot to support several different types of vehicles

  • arduopter
  • arduplane
  • ardurover
  • ardusub 

 I believe Ardurover has been adapted to work with boats. Its a couple of years old but I found this related post.

Edited by Spitfire76
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