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Cornell AutoBoat

We are a hard-working, driven team of hardware and software engineers, dedicated to building and innovating in the field of naval architecture and maritime robotics. Our students challenge themselves in a fast-paced work environment, while also making lifelong connections with incredible people.

Our goal is to design, manufacture, test, and compete with an autonomous boat capable of decision making and complex path planning using computer vision. We compete in the annual Roboboat competition, run by Robonation! 

The 2023-2024 Competition Cycle

Since our competition is held once a year during the Spring Semester, our team functions on a yearly cycle. The cycle is broken down into 4 parts:


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As soon as our travel team comes home from competition, we evaluate our performance and begin to do research on how we can improve in the following year. The research process concludes at the end of the spring semester. Major research topics this year include:

  • Printed circuit board design

  • New RC components

  • More robust waterproofing solutions

  • Parametric hull modeling software

  • Stability and weight management

  • New, potentially holonomic, propulsion systems

  • New motor control systems

  • Simulation software

  • PID tuning

  • New comms systems

  • New sensors (GPS, LiDAR)

  • More robust integration within the Robot Operating System

  • More advanced ways to train machine learning models for computer vision



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As soon as the fall semester starts, we begin our design process. For our hardware team, this involves a lot of CAD, ECAD, simulation, and hand calculations, in order to come up with and prove out designs. On the software side, our engineers write new AI, CV, and controls code stacks, making sure that they all interface well in our ROS framework. Designs are locked in by the end of the fall semester, after several reviews and iterations.

Our design objectives for this year are:

  • Adjusting hull design for greater weight capacity

  • Designing a powerful and reliable main circuit board

  • Cleaning up interfaces between mechanical and electrical components

  • Integrating new comms hardware, motor controllers, microcontrollers, and sensors into our electrical and software systems.

  • Developing a robust simulation framework

  • Using all of the functionality within ROS

  • Making our AI and controls code stacks more functional and reliable



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At the beginning of the spring semester, our hardware team puts in long hours to get the new boat built and ready for competition. Our engineers get to use the composites workshop, the Emerson machine shop, and the ELL to fabricate and assemble their designs, gaining valuable hands-on experience along the way.

This year’s manufacturing goals are:

  • Make the hull shape and surface finish more precise to match the design vision

  • Make hull manufacturing faster and more reliable

  • Make use of more advanced machining techniques such as CNC and water jet cutting

  • Start assembly earlier, and speed up the assembly and integration process

  • Keep track of interfaces and facilitate cross-project communication for more seamless integration

  • Following DFM practices more closely



Testing occurs throughout the competition cycle, enabling the software team to develop, troubleshoot, and integrate AI, CV, and controls code. This year, we intend to have testing sessions at least once a week using our old boat, until the new one is ready in the spring. The goal is to have our mission planning and execution code stack working well via ROS by the end of the fall semester.

Our Network

For many of our members, AutoBoat has served as a gateway to incredible opportunities in industry. Check out some of companies our current members and alumns have worked out.
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