Solar Voyager is an autonomous boat designed and built from scratch that is meant to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Spanning over four meters in length and one metre in width, it has enough space to house two solar panels that act as its main power source. Solar Voyager is expected to be launched in the middle part of the year 2016 to undertake a 4 month journey across the Atlantic to reach France or Spain, depending on weather conditions. Along it's journey, it will periodically broadcast live satellite data about it's current status and position. You can view it's current status here. Solar Voyager is designed in Singapore, with it's hull made in the US, and its electronics made and assembled in Singapore. We have previously attempted to make a launch in the early part of 2015 but due to a fatal failure that we experienced during the launch date, we had to abort the mission. We will attempt another launch in 2016 and we hope that this time it will be a successful launch.
Fitted with 240 Watts of solar panel, the power sub-system is capable of generating up to 7 kWh per day in summer or up to 3 kWh per day in winter. Almost all the power gets used by the propulsion actuator, with the rest being distributed to the various electronics. With this expected power output, we expect the journey to take up to 4 months. We have also considered wind energy as a means of propulsion just like what the Microtransat competition is focused on. However, due to the mechanical complexity of such a system, we have quickly dismissed wind power as a viable means of propulsion system for this project.
The boat is hooked up to the Iridium satellite constellation and hence has true global satellite coverage from anywhere on the earth across all continents. With 66 satellites in orbit, Solar Voyager is able to transmit it's status back to "earth" from almost anywhere on planet earth.
Modularity is seen as an important design specification as it enables the team to respond effectively in implementing new design features. Solar Voyager has been designed to be modular and it can be expanded at ease to cater for future design requirements. Some of its subsystems are hot-swappable. Even though modularity adds some form of complexity in the system design (as in, the modules need to be clearly differentiated with minimum dependency to each other), it's advantages were seen to be worth it.
Due to the fact that the hull is big, the combined weight of the boat is found to be at substantial. In terms of efficiency, this is clearly a drawback. However, this added weight provides additional inertia that provides spatial stability to the boat. We also expect that it will be easier for the propulsion system to maintain a steady heading as waves will not easily throw off the boat around the place.
Solar Voyager has two sealed watertight compartments inside the hull that are welded shut to prevent the boat from sinking should the other compartments be compromised. In other words, the two sealed compartments will be able to support the weight of the boat even if the other sections of the hull are filled with water. This will increase the chance that the boat will be recoverable if the electronics die or the propeller is broken. Chances are that under such circumstances, the boat will eventually drift to reach the shore.
The launch of Solar Voyager was generously supported by the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center in the beautiful and historic port of Gloucester Massachusetts. The Heritage Center provided dock space and crane support as well as a connection to the community of volunteer boat skippers, who generously volunteered their time in the support of Solar Voyager's sea trials. In particular we would like to thank the following individuals: Tom Balf, Steve Parks, Damon Cummings, Hilary Brown, Pat Baker, Phil Dunn, and the crew of the Schooner Adventure.
For more information on the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, please feel free to visit the Gloucester maritime center website
In the spring of 2015, the Solar Voyager Team conducted sea trials in the outer banks of North Carolina. We would like to thank Captain Duke Spencer (a fourth generation outer banks fisherman) of Captain Duke Charter Fishing as well as Spencer Yachts for their support of our sea trials.
For more information on Captain Duke Charter Fishing, please feel free to visit the Captain Duke Charter fishing website