Posted By RichC on February 22, 2014
A friend of mine sent me a great Wired article this week that twisted together sailing, aviation and robotic technology … very interesting? There are driverless cars and military drones, but Richard Jenkins has plugged a brain into a high-tech sailboat called Honey Badger, kind of a big high-tech Snoopy Sloop … see my 2012 post.
Richard Jenkins started his career drafting boats in New England and detoured creating land-based sailing crafts with one called the Greenbird which broke land-windpowered records by “sailing” 126mph. The story continues seeing Jenkins connecting with Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a “kite design project” and returning to boat design using the unique “wing with with a tail” design used on Greenbird. Jenkins designed a 19 foot Saildrone with an onboard computer controlling the sail and navigation. The sailboat has already completed a trip from California to Hawaii and now has more ambitious voyages planned.
Jenkins realized that the wing he’d evolved for the Greenbird would be perfect on an oceangoing drone. Its tail simplified the process of sailing so much that even a robot could handle it. The bot would need only three moving parts: the elevator-like tab on the tail, the rudder, and the free-rotating wing itself. What’s more, only two of those parts—the tail tab and the rudder—would need power. A few off-the-shelf solar panels would provide more than enough. Jenkins knew from long experience that the fewer parts there were, the fewer parts there were to break.