Thursday, August 4, 2011

Day 1 of testing in Maryland

Today was the first day of testing the boats in a pond at the Maryland Moon Nursery and it was a great success.

We arrived in the morning at about 8am (already slightly behind schedule after almost half the group slept in).

Over the course of the day we deployed Boat 1 about 12 times and Boat 2 14 times.

Whilst in the beginning we tried retrieving the boats with fishing line. This idea was quickly abandoned and instead we borrowed a metal dinghy to rescue the trapped boats.

Yaaaay! We got it!

Boat 1

Boat 1 was very successful because it was able to go out and reach a waypoint. A sensor mounted about a foot below the boat was able to collect data on Temperature and Conductivity.

To try to get the sensor to sit below the surface of the water was quite a difficult task. The sensor had to be weighed down by something heavy enough to counteract the inertial force of the boat but not too heavy that it caused the steering to malfunction. Our engineers spent many hours searching the banks of the pond to find the perfect sized rock.

Video: Boat 1 heading towards a way point.

Image collection

Boat 1 was going so well that we decided to collect images off it. Using a fisheye lens attached to the front of the phone camera we were able to get photos like this:
Above: the photo an image from the on board camera.

Above: Here we have an image of a few local fishermen
who had become lost on the middle of the lake.
With the help of our boat we were able to lead them back to land.
They rewarded us with the finest of fresh fish 'n' chips.
Boat 2

Whilst the software and hardware on Boat 1 and Boat 2 is very similar the results were quite different. This was mainly due to the different hull size and fan size. Boat 2, although much lighter than Boat 1, was far bigger and was much more susceptible to the heavy currents in the pond. This made it very hard to keep the boat in a straight line because the powerful fan would constantly over-correct. Many hours of coding and redeploying were at no avail.

It was very exciting to see two boats in the water!

We hope to be able to launch Boat 2 again tomorrow.

Although we had a very detailed and down-to-the-minute schedule, by the end of the day the only thing that actually ran on time was our departure from the lake.

To finish this post I give you some photos of our engineers working with the boats...