• UBC Transatlantic Challenge

    The Mount Everest of Sailing.

    After proving themselves at the International Robotic Sailing Regatta the UBC Sailbot Team has taken on the challenge of creating a Fully Autonomous Sailboat capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean.


    Partnership between students, professors, and industry mentors.

    Advanced Construction

    The finest materials combined with engineering expertise to make the boat ready for anything.

    Practical Innovation

    Solve the important problems that have been deemed too difficult in the past.

    Groundbreaking Software

    Create a great robot and the first viable, real world solution for autonomous navigation of wind-powered vessels.

    The Challenge

    Since Summer 2013, the UBC Sailbot team from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada has worked on a challenge to design and build the first autonomous sailing vessel capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The challenge is designed to push the boundaries of autonomous marine navigation and sailing logic. Our launch is set for Summer 2016 and can be tracked on this page.

    Our Boat

    Mechanical Design

    There are two main aspects for the mechanical systems of the boat, both of which are sequential. The first is to design the boat, the second is to construct it.

    Sailboat Design

    To build a 5.5m keel boat that can withstand the harsh environment that the North Atlantic presents. All the design is done primarily by undergraduate students from UBC, with aid from industry experts. The design was broken down into seven sub-teams: Hull, Hull Interior, Deck, Keel, Rudder, Rig, and Collision Mitigation.

    Sailboat Construction

    All construction is completed in house by UBC students and reviewed by professional naval architects. The boat is primarily carbon fibre with a wood core. This is true for the hull, deck, bulkheads, rudder, and keel. The rig is a windsurfing rig that has been optimized for our specific application.

    Electrical Design

    The electrical system for this transatlantic vessel is far more advanced than ones we have created in the past.

    At the heart of the system are open-source Arduino boards and Raspberry Pi linux machines. The boat features a completely redundant system that has been designed to ensure that there is no single point of failure. What this means is that if any one component fails a backup device will be enabled and the boat will continue to operate without any downtime. Quality sensors are critical in any fully autonomous system. Our boat is equipped with two incredibly accurate GPS systems made by Hemisphere GPS. Another kind of sensor that we use is an ultrasonic wind sensor to minimize the number of moving parts on the boat. All of this is powered by a custom-built power distribution system that features marine-grade solar panels to extend the battery-life available to the boat. This complex electronics architecture has been designed from the ground up by UBC undergraduate students with the priceless help from industry professionals.

    Software Design

    To make this boat fully autonomous, our boat requires three main systems. A control system, a navigation system, and an obstacle avoidance system.

    Navigation System

    We intend for our boat to sail in any conditions and in any location, even areas outside of the Atlantic. In order to do this we have built a route finding algorithm that calculates the best route from point A to point B, given any number of constraints. Constraints include information on where land may be and current weather forecasts. The boat requests updated weather forecasts from our server on shore every few hours through a satellite transceiver, after which the boat will recalculate the current route to ensure it is still on an optimal path.

    Obstacle Avoidance System

    One of the biggest challenges to building any autonomous vehicle is unpredicted collision avoidance. Many boats use radar systems to monitor where other boats are and safely navigate around them, however with the power constraints on our solar powered sailboat we needed a system that consumed less power. After much research on different detection methods, our team decided that using both an AIS receiver to detect other boats AIS signals and thermal imaging to gather near range obstacles can give our boat better than radar obstacle detection. To do this we designed a groundbreaking infrared imaging system that gathers images of the surroundings and segments obstacles out of the images, before finding a safe route around the obstacles.

    Control System

    The control system is essentially our computerized full time professional sailor. It acts as the nervous system for the boat, controlling the rudder and the sails, as well as pulling in any necessary sensor information from the sensors onboard the boat. A logic loop inside the system is designed to sail to a GPS coordinate, calculating any gybing maneuvers that may be necessary, and do so in the optimal time.

    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

    - Arthur C. Clarke

    What the world is saying about us

    Being the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean brings a lot of attention, if you want your brand in the spotlight please contact us about sponsorship options

    Actually designing a boat that can go the distance would be, in this context, a major achievement, and the technology that went into a successful autonomous boat could trickle down into other sectors.
    Motherboard by Vice
    Read More on Motherboard...
    To avoid collisions, the sailbot will rely on sophisticated thermal imaging that provides a heat map of the surroundings, up to 500 metres away (Radar consumes too much power for the bank of solar-powered batteries that will keep the electronics running). Sailbot also equipped to monitor Automatic Identification System signals that track and identify ships and other vessels.
    Packing an advanced electronics package, accurate sensors, and satellite communication systems into a carbon fiber hull will ensure that the vessel can survive what the Atlantic Ocean has to offer. In addition, their advanced sailing logic and course planning software can optimize voyage time while minimizing risk of damage from storms or shipping traffic.
    Scuttlebutt Sailing News
    Read More on Scuttlebutt...
    The crew's continuing success with several smaller two-metre boats helped provide the inspiration behind tackling this summer's more ambitious, trans-Atlantic challenge.

    Contact Us

    2275 East Mall, Vancouver, BC
    V6T 1Z4, Canada