Intro Meeting!

Announcing our very first meeting for the new academic year! Come along to meet us and find out in detail just what we are about. Plus, we are looking for new team members, so make doubly sure to attend 🙂

It’ll be on Thursday, 20th October from 6 – 7p.m., right in the Design Studio (that’s room 3011) in B177, Boldrewood Campus. Check out the event page right here (and be sure to select “going”):

Join us if you’re interested/have skills in:
– Sailing
– Maritime Robotics
– Ocean Science
– Autonomous systems
– Marketing
– Outreach
– Fundraising
– Logistics
– Accounting
– Mechanical Engineering
– ROS (Robot Operating System)
– RaspberryPi
– Arduino
– and sensors

And if you’re still interested in our project, come by same time, same place the following two Thursdays. We’ll be hitting you with a way more involved session with us and the Black Python. Unique FB event pages will be posted and linked right here, so stay tuned and you will be rewarded with the posts in due time.

See you then!


We Won!

That’s right. No kidding. We are officially the champions for 2016’s World Robotic Sailing Championship (microsailboat class)! And at our very first try no less! It’s been a week that’s equal parts challenging, exciting, excruciating and rewarding. We’ve made our mistakes, but we’ve definitely learned a ton. We’ll be coming back next year armed with way more knowledge than ever.



A big thank you to all our sponsors for making this opportunity a reality. And of course, to everyone else who cheered us on, wherever you may be. We couldn’t have done it without all of your support!

So, until next year everyone!


Wednesday – Station Keeping

img_20160907_100716660Today was station keeping. The goal for today is: make your boat stay as close to a single point as possible for five minutes. The average of 95% of points closest to the destination point, in metres, becomes your final score. Therefore, the smaller the better. Also, yesterday’s results!


It’s OK when everyone else gets a DNS






The course location this time was quite a bit further up the river. We started the good ol’ calibration dance to set the new parameters. Then it was time to set off on the rib for the first “run”.



Calibration dancing under the Viana sun





Time to do nothing!

Today was so foggy, it was difficult to spot Black Python from land, if the distance didn’t already worsen matters. The winds and current also got really strong today, just like yesterday.



It’s probably there


Returning after a really long five minutes


In our first run, we got a radius of about 36m. In other words, we can do better. Luckily we got a chance for a second round later in the afternoon.
After the second try, we have good news and bad news. Bad news is we left the 20m circle in the first minute. The good news is if we ignored the points outside that circle, we got a score of 24m – better than the previous run. We’ll have to wait for tomorrow to see how we compare to our competitors.

Tuesday – First Race (Fleet Race)



We arrived at the sailing club for the morning briefing for the first race. All the teams were present, each team being in only one of the two possible categories. Sail round four points in the river, expressed in satnav coordinates, in the fastest time possible. You pass each corner if your boat gets to within a 10m radius of each point.


Getting briefed


Thomas, Sophia and Sebastien got to working on the simulation. Meanwhile, the rest of us worked on fitting the electronics back in, and adding further anti-hydro reinforcements.




The finishing touch. Thanks Alistair!

Slathering the cap with tape wasn’t the only state-of-the-art technique we employed. We also brought out a secret weapon – tampons. We stuffed a bunch in Black Python to prevent another reverse-period scenario.

2:30 in the afternoon. It’s D-time on D-day.



Prepping up to launch it from the rib 


Off it goes!

Black Python started off by, well, not starting to travel. The strong current and the wind were both heading against the direction of the first leg of the track. This caused Black Python to do a really great buoy impression. And then, it started heading the wrong way. And then it started doing circles. We had to bring it back into the rib after a while.

On the plus side, when Black Python was travelling, it traveled really fast; on the negative side of that, it’s only when it’s manually-controlled. Another negative, water still went in. But on the positive of that negative, the water was absorbed before it could touch the electronics. In other words, the tampons did their job!


Feminine hygiene saved the day

We found out why Black Python was spinning in circles. Turned out, when we flashed the code into the boat, we flipped the signals to the rudder and sail servos. Black Python thought its sail was its rudder, and vice versa. Whoops. But hey, at least all the other teams but one didn’t finish the race, just like us!


Monday -Prep day

7:30 in the morning, we got up for breakfast, and then headed off to the sailing club. We begin setting up our stuff. Indoors, the software team code their code ready, while outdoors the rest of us got the boat calibrated and waterproofed with silicone paste and electric tape. We then broke for lunch.



Setting up shop, prepping the boat



Our first on-actual-site testing begins!


Off to test the wifi range. It’s pretty good!



Hard at work!



Under a sunny, cloudless blue sky, we then began our first-ever water test in the very river itself.



Controlling Black Python in the open waters. Also tracking sensor data.

Pier controlled the boat via RC and Tony tracked data gotten from the sensors, as we trailed the Black Python on our rib. Overall, it could handle the waters well, although we seemed to lose RC connection at certain angles. After we were confident enough, we decided to switch the boat to autonomous mode. It started off smoothly for a good while. Afterwards however, we lost WiFi connection to it, and it started acting up. We had to switch the RC back on, and reeled it in to check the situation.

Turned out, the reason we got our problems was – drum roll – water leaked in, again. The culprit – gaps The multiplexer (again) got hit the hardest – a pin even fell off this time.


Pouring it all out


Tony, Thomas, Elisavet and Pier working on the Black Python, while Sophia and Sebastien look on..while I take this picture


Note the middle pin in the bottom-left triplet. Don’t see it? Exactly!

We drained the hull of its watery contents, and took the electronics out. After cooking up a  short game plan for tomorrow (‘more waterproofing’) we called it a day and headed for dinner.


Sunday – Getting to Portugal

The week has finally arrived – we’re flying to Portugal today! We arrived at uni at 10 in the morning, to give ourselves a healthy three hours to pack everything before our taxi shows up. Once that was all done, and the Black Python was safe and secure in its box, of which was bubble-wrapped, we got into our taxi, and off to Stansted.

sophia photo

Getting some needed shut-eye while on our way to the airport

Got stopped at the security over all of our electronics, as expected. But apart from that it was a (relatively) speedy stroll into our aeroplane, and off we flew!

Landed in Porto safe and sound. Found our taxi man and had a beautiful night-time drive up the country to our hotel. It was already 10:40 at night when we checked in. We got into our rooms and immediately slept in order to be up early tomorrow morning (ideally).