Autonomous Testing

Those of you follow our Instagram of Facebook stories, or subscribe to our newsletter, know that we started our second round of on-water testing this week.

The code worked and the boat navigated autonomously on the water by Jericho Beach.

Starting from scratch at the beginning of the term, our programming team just put the final touches to our communications and control interface for the prototype. We began our project in February by designing the prototype, and last week we brought the design to completion with our first autonomous on-water test!

Many eyes were looking at the strange-looking vessel, including this curious dog’s.

This week’s tests validated the basic autonomous control of the vessel. From here we can begin using the prototype for its final purpose: optimizing route choices and navigation, as well as sensor inputs and communication.

BARREL DECKS

While building the solar panel tilting mechanism and installing the hangar deck, we have also installed barrel decks.

These barrel decks have multiple purposes. Their main purpose is to seal off the interior of the boat, while providing puncture resistance against sharp objects. At the same time, they have to allow the solar panel to rotate freely without obstructions.

Bonding the fore and mid barrel decks to the boat.

The barrel decks were laid up with a fiber glass-resin lay-up in a PVC pipe back in August, and have been lying around since then, waiting to be installed. The decks were bonded to the wooden hull with epoxy resin and interfibe.

The fore barrel deck covers the electronics bay, where the navigation and power electronics will be located.

To access the space in the boat after these barrel decks were mounted, we cut out hatches from the fiberglass lay-up. This can be taken off when we are working on internal components, and sealed off when the boat is on the ocean.

After the barrel decks were in place, we installed lifting points for the boat. These will be the points from which the ship is lifted when it enters and exits the water. Since the boat will weigh more than 100 kg, these lifting points had to be engineered to withstand strong loads.

A tail that comes through the “crush zone” at the back has an eye on top that prevents lifting gear to break the solar array.

HANGAR DECK

In addition to the solar panel tilting mechanism, we have been working on installing a hangar deck.  This hangar deck is a section at the stern of the boat that is wet but protected. Water can enter this area, but drains out without entering the sealed section of the boat.

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The hangar deck

The photo above shows the hangar deck. The rudder post comes up from the tube in the donut, where, it is connected to a tiller. This tiller, is rotated by push rods from the servo inside the boat to make the boat turn. These push rods enter the boat from the forward wall of the hangar deck through sealed connections. Between the two barrel decks shown, there will be a removable hatch to keep water and objects off the deck.

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The back part of the hangar deck, showing where the solar panel tilting ropes enter the deck

At the stern of the boat, there is a sacrificial section in case the vessel gets hit by other ships or marine life. This “crush zone” can absorb the impact load without making a hole in the boat. Inside the “crush zone” we have installed a transom tube for intake of water samples. These samples will be analyzed for microplastic content.

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One of the four wood pieces that make up the aft “crush zone” with the transom tube in the background.

Stay tuned for more updates over the next few days!

SOLAR PANEL TILTING

It has been almost a month since the last formal update on construction progress, and although our team has been busy with midterm exams and assignments, a lot has happened since then. Our efforts have been focused on specific components of the hull, as well as some of the mechanisms that run the ship. Over the next couple of days, we will share blog posts taking a deeper look at these specific features.

We will also send out a newsletter soon with an overview of our fall term and some words about where we are going next. Subscribe to our newsletter here to get it directly into your inbox.

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One of the solar array supports being glued together.

A key feature of the overall system is the ability to tilt the solar panel to increase the efficiency of our solar harvesting. Over the last couple of weeks we have designed, prototyped and built this tilting mechanism, which is now close to finishing. Depicted above is one of the two main supports for the solar panel array. The array is assembled on a 4 meter by 1.5 meter carbon honeycomb panel, and the two supports are mounted on the quarter-points of this panel.

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The solar panel rotator arm slot.

Each of the supports stands on an aluminum arm that rotates about a removable pin. Above is a picture of the slot where this arm rotates, and the tube that the pin is inserted into. A nipple is screwed on the threads shown, preventing the pin from falling out. To lift the solar array off the boat, the pins are easily removed from the fore and aft support holes.

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One of the pulleys guiding ropes to the back of the boat. NB: the string used here is just for prototyping and visualization.

To drive the actual tilting of the panels, we will use a sophisticated pulley system with ropes attached to either side of the panel supports, as shown above. Protected by PVC pipes, the ropes run to the stern of the boat, where they enter the aft bulkhead. Here, they are guided with fair-leads to a linear actuator, which pulls and pushes the ropes to facilitate the tilting. Below is a photo of the fair-leads and the guide for the actuator, with the actuator mount in the background.

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The supports guiding the ropes into the linear actuator.

The solar array tilting is only one of several features we have been working on lately. Stay tuned over the next couple of days for similar updates about the other parts.

Logo Upgrade

We have a new logo! Read on to see where the design of our new emblem stems from.

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Designer Haske Sumaila writes the following about his design:

“The word ‘voyage’ evokes plenty of strong imagery related to sea, and to space. An adventurer sailing across the open sea, or a scientist reaching beyond the atmosphere and into space, come to mind. These vignettes inspired the design of the logo for UBC Voyage.

“The logo depicts a boat sailing to the south, leaving behind a wake of water flanked by ocean spray. Because the word “voyage” is related to both sea and space, I wanted to draw parallels between the two extremes. The curved shape of the wake is reminiscent of classic space-related imagery, almost like a rocket taking off. The southern orientation distinguishes the vessel as a boat and allows the wake to serve as a representation of the letter “V”, to further tie the logo to Voyage. The final element of the logo is the ocean spray, which takes the form of stars with varying sizes. Again, the idea was to relate sea and sky, so the stars were chosen to give the logo another galactic element.

“My goal was to represent the word ‘voyage’ by tying together themes and motifs from space and the ocean. I hope the design evokes some of these associations, and I welcome you to share your alternative interpretations!”

SKEG AND KEEL BOX

We have made a lot of progress over the last couple of weeks. Last week, our construction team built two new important components of the hull – a rudder skeg and a “keel box”. The rudder skeg balances the moment of the strut at the front of the vessel and protects the rudder. The “keel box” holds the strut in place and distributes the strong torsional and bending loads from the strut.

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The rudder skeg before and after shaping.

IMG_1746Bonding the rudder skeg to the boat.

Early in the week we fibre glassed and sanded the box, in preparation for it to be inserted into the hull, which we completed at week’s end.

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Fitting the “keel box” into the hull.

We are excited that the exterior of the hull is taking shape, and we will start laying out the interior structure with bulkheads and supports for components this week.

If you want to keep updated on our weekly progress, please follow us on our Instagram account!

RECRUITMENT RECAP AND CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

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We have concluded our recruitment process for 2018/2019, following the final round of interviews this past week. Out of our strong pool of applicants, we have welcomed 30 new team members. These new members will work in five sub teams: navigation, power electronics, hull construction, admin, and research. We are particularly excited by our new research division, who will be focusing on determining and pursuing research opportunities for our vessel.

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This week, we are continuing construction. Over the summer, the team has been working hard to build the foundations of our transatlantic vessel. We are excited to continue construction with our new team members!

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We have just released our August/September newsletter, with details on hull construction and a special mention to Teekay Vancouver for their generous support.  If you’d like to keep learning more about our journey and stay updated on our progress, please subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter here.