SOLARBOI Is a Raspberry Pi-Powered Solar-Harvesting Outback Exploring 4G Rover

With a solar panel and a 4G connection, this smart little rover can go almost anywhere.

Pseudonymous streamer "whatuptkhere," hereafter simply "TK," has built a remote-control rover, powered by the sun, to explore the Australian outback — and stream what it finds to Twitch.

"SOLARBOI is a world-first solar 4G rover, sent to explore the Aussie outback live on Twitch," TK explains of the project. Built on the frame of a 20-year-old radio-controlled car, SOLARBOI is a robot that roams far and wide in the Australian outback, talking back to base with his 4G data connection."

In addition to the upcycled four-wheeled chassis and drive train, the compact rover is powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer (SBC) connected to a USB 4G cellular modem — providing a link back to his creator, so long as it doesn't leave range of compatible cellular networks. A pan-tilt system connected to a camera allows the robot to look around, with the video streaming back to base automatically.

For power, SOLARBOI uses an internal battery which is charged via a solar panel mounted on its back. "He stays shut down most of the day to charge from the sun," TK explains, "powering up every few hours to check in." His exploration, meanwhile, takes place primarily at night — using infrared illuminators for night vision.

"I streamed [SOLARBOI's] missions on Twitch. The highlight of my life was when he got stuck in a country town," TK says. "I rang the local pub to see if anyone could help. We rang up and said 'Hey, I have $20 if you can go find my robot out the back of your pub.' Amazingly, the publican came through and dug us out of the hole we were stuck in. My boi was battered and his drivetrain was shot. Yvette thankfully looked after him for the night and we picked him up the next day. I can't wait to do this again."

More information on the project is available in TK's Reddit thread, or on his Twitch channel.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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