Perhaps you’ve gone to the beach and created a simple drawing like your initials or a heart in the sand. Sure, it’s a fun thing to do, but if you’d like to do something like that on a massive scale, why not let an autonomous robot take care of it for you?
Hacker “Ulysse” did just that, with an aluminum rover named “Pablo Odysseus” that rolls around using a pair of wheelchair motors. The device — which is currently still a work in progress — employs a GNSS (GPS) receiver, an Arduino Micro with an Adafruit BNO055 breakout for a digital compass, as well as another Micro with two opto sensors for an odometer set up on each of the two motors for navigation.
Beyond that, USB dongles enable wireless communication between Pablo and a laptop or an Android app for remote control. A pattern can be pre-programmed into the robot before it begins its journey along the shore, which it then autonomously sketches in the sand using a retractable rake.
To prepare a plot, I first select the shape to draw in the sand. I chose the DXF format as it is wide spread and it contains vectors. I then use an C# application to transform vectors in GPS coordinates. Just choose the scale, place the mouse on a map and just click. Coordinates are exported to a KML file that can be imported into Google Maps. Pablo uses another file with more information to trace the shapes in the sand.
If this concept sounds a bit familiar, you may recall Disney Research’s BeachBot back in 2015. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty awesome project, and one that will surely amaze beachgoers who pass by!