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University of Ljubljana students will be the first in the world to make an“autonomous” sailboat that will cross the Atlantic

A share of participating students with project coordinators Prof. Dr. Gregor Dolinar, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana, and Rok Capuder, Head of Zavod 404

Publish Date: 15.04.2016

Category: Researchers in focus , Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 7 Affordable and clean energy, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure (Indicators)

Ljubljana, 13 April 2016 – The University of Ljubljana students decided to take on the international Microtransat Challenge, which has lingered unaccomplished for a decade despite several attempts by renowned foreign universities. In March 2016, they started designing and building a sailboat. Their wish is that in two years’ time it would be the first autonomous sailing boat in the world to cross the Atlantic.

This is the largest student interdisciplinary project of the University of Ljubljana and is carried out by the latterin cooperation with the Zavod 404 institute. It involves approximately one hundred students from 5 faculties, members of the University of Ljubljana: 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. Students are guided by professors, successful researchers and experts from the wider economy. Due to the extensive scope of the project, they work in technical teams, each of which covers its key area: electronics, artificial intelligence, mechanical engineering and sailing.

The team designing the hull is already making the design for the shape of the sailboat; however, its final design is not definite, as all team members are yet to examine all risks and solutions that could handle all conditions on the Atlantic. A great contribution to the realisation of the students’ plan will be made by Gaber Bregant from the Ocean Tec company, which will manufacture the sailboat, estimated at €45,000, free of charge. Ocean Tec is a successful Slovenian company that has manufactured over 50 vessels since 2006, the longest of them measuring over 12 metres.

One of the technical restraints of the challenge is the length of the sailboat, which cannot exceed 2.4 metres. Furthermore, the sailboat is to send its location every 6 hours. This is done by satellite from where the sailboat may obtain weather and transport data for the Atlantic. Other data sent by sensors must be processed onboard the sailboat. Since this is an unmanned craft, the sailboat is required to make all important decisions relating to navigation by itself. This will be provided by a capable microcomputer with reliable artificial intelligence algorithms developed by 3 student teams.

To answer why students decided to take on the project, Peter Jare, a student of mechanical engineering at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, said: “The idea of the challenge is in itself extremely attractive. I mean, an autonomous sailing boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean by itself; how could that not be interesting!” The University of Ljubljana students believe that they possess sufficient knowledge of technology, but that it will be a great challenge to connect such a large team to act in a cohesive manner. To achieve that, Rok Capuder, the Head of Zavod 404, has offered to assist and share his experience from several successful projects (the first Slovenian submarine Calypso, LEDCepelin, 3BOT, etc.).

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