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article imageUnmanned solar vessel to sail from California to Hawaii

By Karen Graham     May 27, 2016 in Environment
Avila Beach - Environmental goals today may sometimes seem unattainable, but with ingenuity and the use of modern technology, it is amazing what we can accomplish. So it is with an unmanned solar-powered boat that sets sail on Memorial Day, headed for Hawaii.
Damon McMillan thinks the sun is a powerful source of energy, in fact, he thinks it is so powerful that he is betting his boat can cross over 2,000 miles of the pacific Ocean powered by the sun alone, reports Trend Hunter.
The Silicon-Valley hobbyist has a background in aeronautics and astronautics and is currently working in the unmanned vehicle industry. McMillan, who conceived of the idea for a solar-powered boat, got together with a few of his friends who just happened to be experts in computers, besides being mechanical and electrical engineers.
The Seacharger was conceived by Silicon Valley-based Damon McMillan.
The Seacharger was conceived by Silicon Valley-based Damon McMillan.
IDGWorldTechUpdate
Talking friends into helping out with a solar-powered, unmanned boat apparently wasn't too hard because it only took the team two years to come up with the autonomous boat they named the Seacharger.
According to Seeker, if the Seacharger accomplishes what it sets out to do, crossing the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii, it will become the first unmanned boat to cross an ocean using only solar power.
The attempted crossing, set to launch on Memorial Day from Avila Beach, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is expected to reach Hawaii one month later. But this crossing of an ocean is not the first attempt at sending an autonomous surface vehicle out on its own.
Not the first attempt at crossing an ocean with an autonomous boat
"We were inspired by a competition they have every year where they send a robotic sailboat across the Atlantic,
and so far that’s never been successfully accomplished,” McMillan says in his YouTube video.
On August 23, 2013, a 13-foot unmanned boat called the Scout was launched off the coast of Rhode Island by a team of seven college students, headed east across the Atlantic toward Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. According to NBC News,
After 34 days of positive news on the intrepid Scout's journey east, its main transmission fell silent, and 40 days later, its backup system failed too. What happened to Scout is anyone's guess. Was scout swallowed by a whale, or perhaps taken by pirates. We will never know because the ocean doesn't give up its secrets very often.
Seacharger on display at local fair.
Seacharger on display at local fair.
IDGWorldTechUpdate
The Seacharger's stats
The 50-pound craft is 91 inches long and 22 inches wide. The hull is made of foam covered in fiberglass. The boat uses a brushless electric motor, the kind found on some remote-controlled hobby airplanes. The motor propels the boat at a speed of about three knots per hour.
On the top of the boat are two Renogy photovoltaic panels rated at 100-watts, along with a 50 cell LiFePo4 battery bank. This arrangement should give the boat enough power to propel it for three days in the dark, or have unlimited power in the sunlight.
In order to navigate the vast ocean from hundreds of miles away, EcoWatch reports the team installed an Arduino-based autopilot, a GPS, and a satellite modem, sealed in a watertight compartment. The team downplayed the technology they used saying it was only “a few pieces of ordinary technology to accomplish an extraordinary feat.” Yes, the Seacharger has completed sea trials already, making two complete laps around Shoreline Lake in Mountain View, California.
To follow Seacharger's epic journey after its May 30 launch here.
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