The Solar Olympics is an annual competition held in Belgium by the Agora Solar Team, in which Flemish secondary school students are challenged to build solar-powered vehicles. Those vehicles may be cars, planes, or anything else that moves — though they’re usually unmanned. That, of course, includes boats. A group of students calling themselves The Singularity Engineers have built a research boat for the Solar Olympics called the Beast, and it’s very impressive.
The Singularity Beast is an unmanned, remotely-operated research boat that is powered completely by solar panels. The vessel floats on a pair of pontoons, which a raised platform that houses the various electronics. The control system for the boat is built around a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, and that provides both remote control and artificial intelligence-based autopilot features. If the remote control connection is ever lost, the Beast can find its way back to its starting point automatically.
While it’s out on the water, the Beast can be controlled with either a smartphone or a laptop, both of which receive a live video feed. That makes it a true ROV (Remotely-Operated Vehicle). Not all of it’s functionality is completely working yet, as the Solar Olympics aren’t held until later this year. But The Singularity Engineers plan to make it capable of measuring water depth, water temperature, waste removal, and more. That would be noteworthy coming from a professional team of engineers, and is even more impressive since the team is made up of secondary school students.
Update: The Solar Olympics was held on May 8th, and The Singularity Engineers claimed a pair of prizes with their boat. Congrats to the team!