InnoC's fully autonomous sailboat "roboat" wins Microtransat

The "roboat" developed by Austria's InnoC has won first prize in the Microtransat competition. To win, fully automatic sailboats no more than three meters long and controlled by computers had to navigate the course. French aeronautics university ENSICA organized the event. The ultimate goal is to construct sailboats that can cross the Atlantic without a pilot and without external intervention. The jury pay special attention to "tacking," i.e. sailing against the wind.



Five boats took part in the competition. However, the navigation system was not completely finished on one of them, and another had a technical defect and control problems. In addition to the Austrian roboat, an ENSICA boat and one from the University of Wales took part. InnoC says that its boat was the only competitor whose control and navigational system was completely on the boat and worked smoothly. On the two days of the competition (last Thursday and Friday), the wind was blowing at a full 20 knots (just over 10 m/s).


InnoC is a club of young people interested in technology; it also organizes the Robotchallenge. In March, 50 robots took part in that competition. After the Robotchallenge, the members began working on the 1.5 meter long roboat in their spare time. The HTL Spengergasse school of Vienna provided space for the workshop. A conventional model sailboat was equipped with a fanless computer (VIA mini-ITX 600 MHz and a 1 GB flash card running on Debian) and a number of PIC microprocessors.


After its success in France, the team now plans to take part in the second Microtransat in August of 2007. The goal of that competition will be to cross the Irish Sea. InnoC is now looking for sponsors.



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