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Pilothouse is a project to build an autonomous sailboat using Node.js on the Intel Edison.

The goal of Pilothouse is to make an open source robotic sailboat that can autonomously navigate and sail itself long distances, and to prove that this can be done using the latest web technology: Node.js.

Pilothouse has a number of awesome features, including:

  1. Robotic sailing, with 100% all natural renewable energy.
  2. WiFi based monitoring with remote GUI.
  3. Full Ubuntu Linux environment onboard.
  4. Advanced sensors, including the latest GPS and MEMS.
  5. Potential for expansion into a fully autonomous ocean going science vessel.
  6. Javascript Node.js based control system.
  7. Open source software (GitHub).

At this time, this project is just starting to get into autonomous control. Here's the first sail, with autonomous sail control and manual RC rudder.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

As part of the Pilothouse project the base station displays all relevant boat state information, sent over WiFi.

The boat transmits the current state over WiFi, which is received by a long range USB WiFi antenna on the laptop. No software besides a web browser is needed.

This project was inspired by my volunteer work with Diane at RoboSail, an awesome project to teach kids programming through robotic sailboats.

Read the complete introduction to pilothouse here.


Total BOM cost is $1063.33.


Item $/Unit Qty Total Purchase
Ragazza 1 Meter Sailboat $349.99 1 $349.99 src
Spectra 65lb test fishing line $39.30 1 $39.30
Sugru $21.38 2 $42.76 src
Pelican 1020 Case $11.95 1 $11.95 src
Stainless Steel Round Rod 72” $7.89 1 $7.89 src
Stainless Steel Fender Washer, 50 $6.20 1 $6.20 src
Stainless Steel Knurled Nut, #8-32 $3.91 4 $15.64 src
Stainless Steel Machine Screw, 1”, #8-32, 100 $7.26 1 $7.26 src
Wind Indicator $13.90 1 $13.90 src
LED Holder (panel) $0.50 5 $2.50 src
303 Stainless Steel Tight-Tolerance Rod, 1/16" Diameter, 2' Long $6.35 2 $12.70 src
Elastic Cord $1.49 1 $1.49
Steel Rings, 3/4” diameter $1.49 3 $4.47
Thumb Nuts, #8-32, plastic shell, brass insert $4.39 4 $17.56
Subtotal $533.61


Item $/Unit Qty Total Purchase
Intel Edison $49.95 1 $49.95 src
UBLOX NEO-M8N GPS $79.99 1 $79.99 src
Rotary Encoder, MA3-P10-125-B $66.75 1 $66.75 src
USB Micro B Panel Mount Extension Cable, M-F, 1ft $9.95 4 $39.80 src
Encoder plug and wire, 6 feet CA-MIC3-W3-NC-6 $9.30 1 $9.30 src
LiPo Battery, 2000mAh $12.95 2 $25.90 src
JST Jumper 2 Wire Assembly $0.95 2 $1.90 src
SparkFun LiPo Charger Basic Micro USB $7.95 2 $15.90 src
LiPower Boost Converter $14.95 1 $14.95 src
SparkFun LiPo Fuel Gauge $9.95 2 $19.90 src
SparkFun Level Translator Breakout PCA9306 $6.95 1 $6.95 src
Pro Micro 5V/16MHz $19.95 1 $19.95 src
SparkFun Block 9 DOF $34.95 1 $34.95 src
SparkFun Block I2C $14.95 1 $14.95 src
SparkFun Block GPIO $14.95 1 $14.95 src
SparkFun Block microSD $19.95 1 $19.95 src
SparkFun Block PWM $19.95 1 $19.95 src
SparkFun Block Base $32.95 1 $32.95 src
Edison Hardware Pack $2.95 3 $8.85 src
32GB USB SD Card $13.99 1 $13.99 src
4 Channel RC Multiplexer $9.95 1 $9.95 src
Full Size Rasberry Pi Perma Board Project board $7.99 1 $7.99 src
Subtotal $529.72

Setup Notes

Below you'll find some assorted notes on setting up the system. At some point they'll get properly organized.

Intel Edison (Yocto Image)

Install a Yocto image on your Edison.

From serial console run configure_edison --setup. Choose pilothouse for the name.

Then, from the pilothouse repository on your development computer, run Make sure that you are on the same network as your Edison (pilothouse.local).

Useful Commands

Analyze startup speed: systemd-analyze blame

systemctl start [name.service]

systemctl stop [name.service]

systemctl restart [name.service]

systemctl reload [name.service]

$ systemctl status [name.service]

systemctl is-active [name.service]

enable disable

To see the logs:

journalctl -fu pilothouse

If you don't see anything, then it's probably because the date/time on the board is not correct (no RTC battery backup). Get the correct date time with:


Setting up the Arduino

You'll need to download and install the Arduino IDE, along with the Sparkfun libraries that let the IDE talk to Sparkfun boards.

This page has that library:

Restart the IDE, and open up the ma3toI2C.ino file.

Setting up the client

bower install

Useful WiFi client commands

# list the current network status
sudo iwconfig

Setting up the Edison for hotspot WiFi

Useful WiFi hotspot commands

sudo arp: list hostapd clients

sudo iwconfig: list WiFi strength

Setting up Edison for WiFI client on boot with fallback to Hotspot

Still in development...

file /etc/network/interfaces

# start interfaces upon start of the system
auto lo wlan0
# register loopback interface
iface lo inet loopback

# use manual ip configuration for wlan0 interface and allow hotplug as well
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual

file /etc/rc.local


# Disable the Edison's watchdog.
echo 1 >/sys/devices/virtual/misc/watchdog/disable

# Based on

# RPi Network Conf Bootstrapper
    echo "Creating ad-hoc network"
    #ifconfig wlan0 down
    #iwconfig wlan0 mode ad-hoc
    #iwconfig wlan0 key aaaaa11111 #WEP key
    #iwconfig wlan0 essid RPi      #SSID
    #ifconfig wlan0 netmask up
    #/usr/sbin/dhcpd wlan0
    echo "Ad-hoc network created"
echo "================================="
echo "Pilothouse WiFi Boot Setup"
echo "================================="
echo "Scanning for known WiFi networks"

echo "Attempting to connect to WiFi"
wpa_supplicant -B -i wlan0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf > /dev/null 2>&1

if dhclient -1 wlan0
    echo "Connected to WiFi"
    echo "DHCP server did not respond with an IP lease (DHCPOFFER)"
    wpa_cli terminate
exit 0

Webclient Port

Served on port 80 directly. We're already running as root, so why not?

Manually Switch between connection and hotspot

Switch to client

sudo update-rc.d hostapd disable
sudo update-rc.d dnsmasq disable
sudo rm /etc/network/interfaces
sudo ln -s /etc/network/interfaces.client /etc/network/interfaces
sudo reboot

Switch to hotspot

sudo update-rc.d hostapd enable
sudo update-rc.d dnsmasq enable
sudo rm /etc/network/interfaces
sudo ln -s /etc/network/interfaces.hotspot /etc/network/interfaces
sudo reboot
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