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Solar powered robot boat stalls half way across the Atlantic

by Masslive/Sail-World Cruising on 16 Oct 2013
Scout progress .. .
An unmanned, solar-powered boat built by Massachusetts-based Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student and his friends has begun to sail south and, it appears, will sadly not complete its intended journey from Rhode Island to Spain.

After 51 days at sea, the boat has travelled almost 2000 miles. On Monday morning, it was 2,242 miles from Spain.


Its student creators report that Scout, which would have been the first fully-autonomous craft to sail across the Atlantic, is now fully adrift. However, it has still completed a kind of record, travelling further across the Atlantic than any other robotic craft. One of the crew members, 21 year old Dylan Rodriguez, quoted that, as far as anyone could tell, the previous record was just 61 miles.

A post by one of the crew members late last week on Scout's website reported the bad news:

Scout appears to be adrift and moving fully with the seas at this point. It has had a couple of sunny days to recharge if those systems were working working. The best guess at this point is that some sort of electrical or software failure onboard has occurred with the Arduino processors. It is going to be very difficult to pinpoint the actual failure until we (hopefully) recover the boat. Anyone know the weather in the Azores mid-winter? Anyone know anyone with a boat in the Azores?

The team lost contact with Scout late last month. Eventually, they were able to get a backup transmitter to work, and report the boat's location. For a while, the boat was moving eastward, towards its Spanish destination. But team members were wary -- the currents and wind were also headed east.

On Oct. 7, the boat began heading south, according to tracking data. By Oct. 11, it was traveling west, back from whence it came.

Scout is carrying a message from her builders. In three languages, the message on the hull reads: 'Hello I'm Scout, a fully autonomous boat attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Tiverton, Rhode Island, to Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. I was built over the course of three years by a group of young optimists after a successful Kickstarter campaign. If you have found me, please contact our ragtag group of aspiring engineers.'

In a post Monday morning, Rodriguez seemed at peace with the fate of the boat that started three years ago as a joke between college buddies.

'Good thing she isn't floating along to the north- I'd rather have Scout's funeral be in Puerto Rico than Greenland any day,' Rodriguez wrote. 'We'll have to fly down to pay our respects…..'
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