Remote Controlled Boat


I’ve been thinking for a long time about building a remote controlled boat that will allow me to more fully explore the rivers and stream around my home. Often footpaths don’t run alongside the river or the banks are crowded with trees, bushes and reed beds. There are miles and miles of unexplored reaches that are just around the bend, out of sight.

Inspired by the OpenROV project ( I’ve decided to make a start. I’m going to use this blog as a project diary to chart my progress. I find that it helps to write about projects as I go along to marshal my thoughts and documents progress and decisions. Perhaps somebody else may find this blog of interest, but more importantly hopefully others can contribute ideas and helpful suggestions.

The first thing I am going to do is to set out what the boat should do – a functional specification in technical speak. Whilst doing this I am not going to jump to solutions & start designing, that comes later.

1. Boat must be propelled, remotely controlled and be highly maneuverable
2. The boat must be suitable for small river & streams containing debris, shallows and over-hanging branches.
3. Must be capable of taking dip samples from the water at different depths
4. Must be capable of recording photographs and video above and below the water line from a range of positions
5. The location of all samples and images taken should be recorded (e.g. grid reference).
6. The boat must cause minimal disturbance to the environment
7. The boat should contain the minimum amount of specialist equipment

…………and hopefully it won’t end up looking like something from Wacky Races


I am sure that the functional spec will evolve over time.

That’s just part of the development cycle.


Energy Saving – Part 2.


OK, now for step 2.  In step 1 we began to track how much energy we use overall.  In step 2 we will delve a little deeper into our electricity consumption

No. 2 – List the things that use electricity & estimate how much they use.

Go around your house and make a list of all the things that are plugged in and using electricity.  We are going to break down our total electricity consumption to help us see where we can make savings.  Play particular attention to the things that are always plugged in rather than gadgets like mobiles phones, etc.

My home is heated using gas so the major items for me are,

  1. Electric cooker (oven)
  2. TV with DVD player and digital TV box
  3. Fridge
  4. Washing machine
  5. Microwave
  6. Central heating pump
  7. Kettle
  8. Power Shower
  9. Internet router
  10. Lighting
  11. Other miscellaneous items (e.g. laptops, mobile phones, vacuum cleaner, toothbrushes, etc.)

Now we need to work out the contribution of each of these items to the overall electricity consumption that we’ve been tracking in Step 1.  The results for my house are shown in the chart below.

Elec Con

You can now see that I can save a significant of electricity by;

  • Making sure that nothing is left on stand-by – especially my TV / DVD player, washing machine and microwave – switch it off at the socket.
  • Only boiling the amount of water I need in the kettle
  • Double checking that I have energy efficient light bulbs
  • Maybe eating less energy intensive meals (ie. not oven cooked)
  • Check that the seals on the fridge are in good shape
  • Perhaps switch to a lower RPM spin-cycle.

All this stuff is pretty simple and maybe you’ve heard it before.  Importantly it doesn’t involve any sacrifice on your part.  You don’t have to sit in the dark, shivering to make these savings.  They are pure waste.  You may discover different things, for example, you may be surprised at how many things are left permanently plugged in, and you may be shocked at exactly how much your tumbled dryer costs you (when you can let at least some of the washing dry naturally).

I want you to measure the consumption so you can see the impact of following advice on energy saving.  I believe that the act of measurement reinforces these messages and ensures that these good acts become permanent habits.

I haven’t said how I completed this analysis.  I did it in 2 of ways.

A.  Using a Power (watt) meter

B. Estimating based on knowledge of voltage/current/watts and usage.

More about these next time.