Publish Date: 13.08.2018

Category: News from the University

Together with the institution Zavod 404, students from five faculties of the University of Ljubljana began the testing phase of the unmanned sailboat that is going to cross the Atlantic next year. The crossing is planned to take three months. Within the international Microtransat Challenge, already 20 global universities have attempted to manufacture such a sailboat. The most successful one so far has managed to come half-way.

Students of the University of Ljubljana have been manufacturing an autonomous vessel – a robot-controlled sailboat that will have its maiden voyage across the Atlantic next year. The sailboat is being developed within the international open competition “Microtransat Challenge”, whose goal is to cross the Atlantic with an autonomous vessel. The sailboat, which is propelled exclusively by wind, is made of glass and carbon fibre that guarantees rigidity and stability.

The project, which is implemented by the University of Ljubljana and Zavod 404, links approximately 100 students from five faculties of the University of Ljubljana, i.e. the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport, Faculty of Computer and Information Science, and Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

The students, organised into eight technical teams, have been planning the sailboat’s voyage since the beginning of the project in 2016, looking for solutions to possible risks during the journey, as well as face numerous construction and technical challenges. During their work, they are being assisted by domestic and foreign experts with a lot of support from professors of the University of Ljubljana too. A special thank you goes to Gaber Bregant from the company Ocean Tec, who constructed the sailboat, and Andrej Justin, who designed it.

During the project, students developed many innovative solutions. One such solution was the development of the steering system with the possible options considered being an electrical or hydraulic steering system. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. Unlike other projects, where they would have had to opt for one solution in the end, they were lucky since one of the project objectives is the promotion of innovativeness. Therefore they could start building an additional sailboat with the support of the Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport of the University of Ljubljana. So both systems can be tested on actual vessels.

The merely 2.4-metre-long vessel is constructed of glass fibre with its rigid fins made of woven carbon fibre. A microcomputer controls the movements of the fins. The sailboat will also feature an integrated navigation module that will submit real-time data on the position of the boat and the state of the systems via a telemetric BlueTraker unit.

Miha Štampek, a student at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana, has the following explanation of why the students are still insisting on the project: “The technical knowledge presents no problem, especially under the extensive support by the University, our partners, and sponsors. Regardless of the numerous obstacles that we have had to overcome, especially in the last year, we students still wish for the project to see the light of day as soon as possible.”