An autonomous robotic boat made headlines due to its single energy source: solar power. The all-solar boat is the first of its kind and began its journey across the Atlantic on June 1st. Proclaimed the “Solar Voyager”, the boat was built by Isaac Penny and Christopher Sam Soon, two Midwesterners who wanted to make a statement about the sustainability of solar.
Neither of the two inventors have a background in robotics or marine technology and believe that their lack of specialized skill speaks to the versatility of solar energy. Other than the use of solar panels and a standard motor, the two environmentalists built the boat from scratch. “We always think about solar as this alternative energy thing, but you just couldn’t do this with fossil fuels — you couldn’t build something that will run forever,” said Penny.
The robo-boat itself is 18 feet (5.5 m) long and 2.5 feet (0.76 m) wide, with a hull made of aluminum. Due to that design, the boat tips the scales at around 550 lb (250 kg), which the project team acknowledge is a drawback in terms of drag and efficiency, but the trade-off was made for a sturdier, more stable vessel, with better resistance against mechanical shocks.
Every 15 minutes during the journey, the vessel reports its location, as well as details including its speed, bearing, weather, and power generated and consumed. The Solar Voyager is set to reach its programmed destination in Lisbon, Portugal this fall. Follow the boat’s progress real time here!