Monday, October 10, 2011

Generation X

Announcing the latest and greatest development in the design and manufacture of autonomous airboats; the new Generation X Autonomous Airboat. Faster, more durable, more maneuverable and more reliable than ever before, it is truly a marvel of modern robotics. 

The all new GenX Airboat
Thanks to the hard work of our engineers back in Pittsburgh, we have successfully redesigned the airboats to address many of the shortcomings we noticed while testing in the Philippines. In just one week after the final design was finished and a prototype was tested, five boats were fabricated and now eagerly await testing.

Boat Rainbow
The new GenX has several great new features we know you will enjoy. First of all, the shroud has been completely redesigned to use a single thickness of extruded acrylic. This helps keep manufacturing costs down and material tolerances at a minimum. The base of the shroud now has additional bolts and a locking spacer ring to keep the bearings within from jamming beneath the top retaining ring.

Permanent Mesh
Furthermore, by popular demand, the mesh on the back of the shroud has become a permanent feature rather than a bolt-on lawsuit deterrent. Using a ring to retain the mesh yields a cleaner design and more sturdily secures the mesh to the shroud, resulting in 80% less finger injuries. Nylon standoffs now replace the custom acrylic spacers use to secure the motor a fixed distance from the shroud. These new components are a cheap piece of commercially available hardware that greatly increases airflow to the motor and decreases the number of components that need to be laser cut.

Motor standoffs - Also available in black!
While the shape of the hull is reminiscent of previous models, don't let that deceive you. The new GenX hull is thinner, sleeker and lighter to provide the smoothest ride possible. At just 4" thick, the hull protrudes from the water significantly less than its predecessors, decreasing the effect wind has on boat motion. The bottom of the hulls has also been covered with a protective rubberized compound to increase durability, particularly during repeated visits to the dry dock for repairs.

Rubberized hull coating
All in all, the new GenX is a true achievement in autonomous airboat technology and a testament to what can be accomplished with an Android phone, an idea and a whole lot of undergrad slave labor.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Using a boat in the wake of Pedring

Once the rain stopped and the wind dropped I headed out to find some flood waters. The water levels in the center of Manila, where flooding was once common, dropped within a few hours. Other areas, closer to the bay and with a less advanced drainage system, had knee deep water for days.

Rescue missions mounted across the nation. (Source)
I went to an area called Malabon, that was hit very badly by the typhoon. The streets were covered with debris and knee deep water covered most of the area. After meeting with the Barangay Captain (local councilman) I was given permission to test out the boats. Everyone was very excited and I gathered quite a crowd. Several people lended a hand and we were ready to deploy within minutes.

Setting up the boat
Then... I knocked the wifi router into the flood water!

Without a backup I reluctantly had to cancel the mission. Everyone was very disappointed.

Two days later returned with a brand new router. This time, there was less excitement and my team consisted of only three people. I kept everything inside the car to keep it super dry.

For about half an hour I drove one of the boats around with the sensors attached. The Barangay officials were very amused and advised me that the boat definitely needed reverse (which I agreed with) and a horn (which I am skeptical about).

I will post the results of the testing once the maps are complete.