UBC SailBot Blog

2017 Update – Ada 2.0 Progress

Hello, UBC Sailbot blog followers, and Happy New Year!

We at Sailbot have a bunch of exciting updates for this new academic term which we would like to take this opportunity to share. First, development of our new vessel is proceeding very well, and we have made great strides in designing her new systems, be they mechanical, electrical, control, and software. Second, we will be at the Vancouver Boat Show next week – drop by and say hi!

Our new vessel, currently codenamed Ada 2.0, will operate much closer to home – goals for her include competition in the Vic-Maui Yacht race, as well as intensive local testing and development of a highly sophisticated marine obstacle avoidance system.

Our new vessel will be a more “traditional” boat than was Ada. She will feature a sloop rig, which will allow better performance at a wide range of points of sail. She will also feature a dual rudder, which will decrease the chances of failure by reducing the force on the individual rudders, and by decreasing the size of each rudder, which will passively reduce the chance of fouling. The hull hydrodynamics of Ada 2.0 are based on modified hull designs of successful long-range single-handed racing sailboats, and four hull designs are currently being analyzed with various naval architecture software including MAXSURF and ShipMo3D. This analysis will be finished in late January, and we plan to build the hull using molded composite construction this upcoming summer.

The basic building blocks of our power system have been identified, and our designs have been reviewed by various industry experts from Energus, Solara, Victron and the UBC lab funded by our sponsor, Alpha Technologies. We are currently working on the AIS system and the integration thereof.

Our new electrical and control system will also be highly modular, and will use the CANBUS communication protocol to achieve this. Our reusable communications module will greatly reduce the complexity, and increase the reliability, isolation, and ease of testing of our boat’s new electrical and control systems.

Finally, our software team has been hard at work completely revamping our vessel systems. This past term has been focussed on exploration of and familiarization with these more advanced systems. Our new global pathfinding system will provide more accurate point-to-point navigation, and the new local pathfinding system will accurately model vessel dynamics and will allow safer navigation in hazardous conditions such as harbours. Our obstacle detection will feature a LIDAR – although we so far do not have a unit of our own, we have been working closely with other groups to get data so that we can develop robust capabilities for detecting and identifying multiple obstacles.

We are excited and inspired by the fast pace of development we have been able to achieve – we hope to see you at the Vancouver Boat Show, where we can tell you about this in person.

Gavin Lim (Power Co-Lead), Melika Salehi (Electrical Member), Mahela Cooray (Power Member), Francisco Paz (Solar Power Mentor), Serena Ramley (Team Captain)

Visit from SolidWorks!


Pierre Devaux, Eric Leafquist and the Education Team at SolidWorks came and visited us this month! We were thrilled because we have used SolidWorks in so much of our project. The image that you see above was, believe it or not, made by a then-1st year student on the team who later went on to become a mechanical lead.

You can check out how the above image was made and how we designed our deck to withstanding crashing waves.



Ada 2.0 and 4000 km of Ada 1.0 Travel


Ada’s Journey Continues

Ada continues her journey across the Atlantic, and is currently about 800km from the coast of Spain/Portugal!
She has reached many important milestones throughout her journey:

  • Travelled more than 4000km
  • Exceeded a speed over ground of 12.41 knots
  • Recovered after storm-induced power loss
  • Withstood 50+ knot winds
  • Survived for over a month with core systems intact on the open ocean

We continue to actively work to recover her, and have been generously sponsored by Marine Traffic to provide us with up-to-date AIS data, which we are using to get in touch with shipping lines and vessels. Despite making contact with a couple of liners, we have still had no success in spotting Ada, but our efforts in this regard continue.

New for 2016 – Ada 2.0

We intend to incorporate the lessons learned from Ada, good and bad, into her design, and have made some important progress already.

  • Defined high-level design requirements
  • Built high-level timeline
  • Identified lessons learned from Ada 1.0 in a design retrospective document
  • Networked with new and existing industry mentors to plan formal design reviews
  • Found a new potential challenge with smaller logistical burden – the Vic-Maui Yacht Race (http://www.vicmaui.org/)

The Dream Lives On…

IMG_1639 (1)

Dear autonomous sailing fans,

Ada, our autonomous sailboat, appears to have experienced a rudder control failure, probably mechanical in nature (servo or linkage), and is currently headed south on a close-hauled bearing. The failure occurred about 800km into her journey, in over 20 knots of wind, while she appeared to be planing at 12.41 knots. Up until that point, everything was working beautifully, and this trip had been a major success! Ada has already set multiple records on this journey, sailing further east than any boat ever has autonomously crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

We have fielded several questions now about potentially recovering Ada. Ada is over 800km from the nearest coastline (St. John’s, Newfoundland), and heading south into an even more desolate area of the Atlantic. Frommarinetraffic.com, we can see that the only ships in the vicinity of several hundreds of kilometres are tankers and cargo ships.

Previous boats that have attempted this trans-Atlantic voyage have been recovered: by the Canadian Navy, the Coast Guard, and fishing vessels. Ada isn’t near any of these types of vessels. She’s simply too far from the coast, and we think that these are the only types of vessels from which we can reasonably hope for assistance.

For now, Ada is truly on her own. We will daily consider the feasibility of a recovery given traffic in the region, but the opportunity for recovery might take several weeks or even months. In the meantime, Ada’s electrical and satellite systems seem to be working fine, and those will remain on to aide a recovery.

This has been an incredible journey with all of you, and we can’t thank you enough for your support! When we first began this project three years ago, we knew that we were attempting a crazy engineering challenge that would involve tens of thousands of volunteer hours, the support and true dedication of so many incredible individuals, and many all-nighters. This entire project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the University of British Columbia, our many sponsors, our amazing industry mentors and advisors, and the incredible people of Newfoundland who helped us every step along the way in the lead-up to saying good-bye to Ada as she began her trans-Atlantic voyage.

Just launching Ada from St. John’s and seeing her so successfully sail those first 800km has given our team the conviction that we really did accomplish something, and this failure is a great lesson for our team in our need to focus on iterative design, mechanical reliability of critical components, and component testing for future autonomous ocean-going boats!! We do hope to recover Ada, and we will monitor traffic daily in the region which could facilitate this. If recovery does take place, we would expect it to take place once Ada is much nearer to shore. Ada was just too good a sailor for the first 800km of her journey for us to realistically reach her right now!

We will continue to keep you updated on Ada, and will also soon be excited to share how this project will shape our next one in a few weeks! Our team’s dream for autonomous sailing continues, and we can’t wait for you to continue this voyage with us!