So, while debating the different merits (or otherwise) of various mounting solutions, someone suggested using a 3D printer to actually print the housing for the masthead wind direction indicator. The more I thought about that plan, the better I liked it. As it happens, 091 Labs in Galway have a working 3D printer, from the Mendel90 family. What’s more, they are trying to get a 3D printing service off the ground! I wasn’t customer number one, but I was probably pretty close.
Posts Tagged “TWA”
Now that the hull is looking solid, it’s time to start thinking again about the wind direction indicator. It is possible to detect wind speed by using an ultrasonic sensor and receiver, and measuring the delay between the two. You need to account for temperature changes and gusts can cause issues, but it is fairly reliable and has no moving parts. Generally, you use two transducers offset by a distance of perhaps 20cm for the North/South computation, and another pair in the East/West direction. I think if we were using a larger hull, such as a 4m boat, this would be a good plan. But, for the 2.4m (or the 1.2m) boat, it’s just too big and awkward. Also, this jury is undecided about how well they would work, over the long haul.
A slight change from the version of the hull from the previous post; the hull height from the base of the hull to the deck (not including the keel) was 180mm. As I started to look at cutting bulkheads and the transom, it struck me that the hull is quite shallow. It looks fine from DelftSHIP but that’s a low freeboard.
The beam of the boat is around 360mm, which is twice that depth. The original intent was to create a hull which wasn’t too “beam-y” but that’s a 2:1 aspect ratio. I decided to increase the hull height by 50%. Luckily, DelftSHIP will scale your drawing in any or all of the three vertices. So, five minutes later, and we have a new hull with a 270mm depth.
I’ve been asked recently, about the software platforms used on board Beoga Beag. This seems as good a time as any, to talk about the various layers. As mentioned previously, the lower layer is a custom board, running an ATmega8 Atmel processor. The software (Igor and Otto) is custom-written in C for the boat.
So, as I mentioned, the virtual boat was too eager to tack. If you’re dead downwind of the mark, and you set off on a starboard tack, within a metre of being on the left-hand side of the course, the other tack is favoured.
I added code that essentially stated “unless the other tack is at least five degrees better than the existing one, ignore it.” So, if I’m at 44 degrees TWA and the other tack is better by a degree (-43 say), stay where you are. This works quite nicely. If you look at the plotted course, it shows the boat sailing nice upwind legs, to the waypoint. As Henry would say, “it’s sailing up the ladder.”
Without that little extra piece of code, it would tack repeatedly, attempting to sail directly upwind by constantly tacking. A strategy that’s doomed to fail because tacking slows the boat down, and isn’t something you should do too often.
Even before a boat is built, the designers can predict how fast it will go at various sail angles. Using this information, they can make modifications to the hull to suit the type of sailing. For example, if an around-the-world race looks like it will see a lot of downwind sailing, it’s possible to optimise the downwind performance, and run test simulations with the boat, before ever committing to fibreglass.
The standard mechanism for displaying this information is a polar curve. Because the boat should sail at the same speed on either tack, only one side is shown. Essentially, a polar curve allows the designer (and the boat owner) to predict the hull speed for a particular true wind angle and strength. In the example above (courtesy of SailOnline.org), you’ll notice that the boats fastest speed is at a true wind angle of about 120 degrees. In the case of a 30 knot breeze (the red line), the boat should get over nine knots through the water. At TWA’s of twenty degrees and less, the boat will stop, regardless of the wind speed.
Looking at the upper-level navigation software introduces some particularly interesting questions. The low-level software will keep the boat on a TWA, or true wind angle. Technically, it’s an apparent wind angle, but that’s ok.
The upper level has to decide what is the best TWA. To do this, it has the current position of the boat and the position of the next waypoint. It also knows the current TWA and the compass heading. Without bogging down in the maths, it can compute the distance and bearing to the next waypoint using something called a Haversin algorithm. Given the current TWA and the heading, it can determine the wind direction. We can compute the VMG or “velocity made good” for each new heading possibility, based on the predicted Polar (more on that anon). So, we can see that a particular heading is the best course to get us as fast as possible to the next mark. All of this is standard stuff, and is used on sailboat race courses every day.
In terms of the system architecture, we’re planning on using two separate computer control planes to manage and steer the boat from start to finish.
At the lowest level, a custom Atmel (ATmega8) board will act as a basic “autohelm”, driving the boat to a specific True Wind Angle or TWA. As the breeze shifts, so too will the boat, to maintain that TWA. This is a basic PID algorithm for controlling the rudder and mainsail in relation to the specified TWA and is very similar in design and implementation to your average sailboat autohelm. This is the control board, also known as Otto or Otto von Helm, to give him his full title. Otto will most likely be assisted by Igor, in charge of power management and the boat environment. It is Igor who will turn on and off the other systems on board, including the main system (Mother).