The RoboBoat competition is an annual event where teams design autonomous boats to complete various obstacle courses. One of the obstacle courses is a slalom maneuver, a straight line course with alternating red and green buoys. The boat will cross between each buoy until it reaches the end of the line.
Another challenge is a “find the path” where buoys are scattered around a white buoy at the center. The boat must navigate to the white buoy in the center and return out of the area without hitting any of the colored buoys.
Our boat uses an onboard computer to process data gathered from a webcam and LIDAR. The additions we introduced to previous versions include a LIDAR, path planning and boat-to-drone communication. The LIDAR is used to calculate the distance and angle from the boat to the buoys. There is also a webcam on the boat to detect the color of the buoys. With this information, the boat localizes itself within the field of buoys and plans its path to complete the specific obstacle course.
Besides water-based tasks, a raise-the-flag challenge requires a drone. This challenge requires both the boat and drone to autonomously communicate. The boat sends a control command to the drone to take off from the boat and hover over the dock. Once over the dock, the drone sends video feedback to the boat for the onboard computer to analyze. The computer analyzes a seven-segment display and determines which number is displayed. When the number is confirmed through image recognition, the boat will send a command for the drone to land. Depending on the number, the boat will push a certain button on the dock corresponding to the number displayed by the seven-segment display.