Self-driving ‘sailbot’ returns to Vancouver after being lost at sea

The self-navigating “sailbot” was rescued off the coast of Florida in December

She lost her sail and has a few scratches, but a robotic sailboat has returned home in relatively good condition after being lost at sea.

The self-navigating “sailbot” — a 5.5-metre solar-powered vessel — was rescued off the coast of Florida in December and has now returned to Vancouver.

Team captain Serena Ramley said the University of British Columbia students, who spent years designing the vessel, never gave up hope for its return.

“We know it’s a very big ocean, but the currents would have to lead her to land somewhere, whether it’s North America, South America, Europe or Africa,” she said.

The group is just glad the boat landed on the right continent, she said.

The team spent years designing and building the sailbot, named Ada, for mathematician Ada Lovelace. As a multi-year project, it involved several different groups of students and hundreds have had their hand in engineering the vessel.

Related: B.C. research students look to upgrade first ‘sailbot’ at sea

The sailboat departed for Ireland from St. John’s, Nfld. on what should have been a three-week journey in August 2016. It fared well in the coastal region, but fell into trouble just days after leaving port, about 700 kilometres offshore, Ramley said.

It went “offline” about 1,200 kilometres out, when the team believes heavy wind and waves knocked the boat’s rig down, taking most of the sensors with it.

A research vessel came across the boat in December 2017 and it arrived back in Vancouver about two weeks ago.

“It’s pretty amazing to see her back. The moment she arrived, it was very early in the morning and we all had classes, so I was the only one there. But everyone trickled in when they could,” Ramley said.

“It was really amazing to see the state she’s in — she travelled right through some hurricanes.”

The boat’s hull remained fully intact, despite some large scrapes down to the carbon fibre. Despite not reaching its destination, Ada set a record for the farthest distance sailed by an autonomous boat across the Atlantic, according to UBC.

Related: UBC ‘sailbot’ found after 18 months at sea

The team now plans to study the boat to pick up lessons for the next project.

They’re aiming to enter a sailbot in the 3,714-kilometre Victoria to Maui International Yacht Race in 2019 or 2020.

“It’s a race normally done by human sailors, we’ve been in contact with some people who have done it before. Once we finish making Ada 2.0, we’ll test her in some high winds off the coast of Vancouver Island,” Ramley said.

“Because it’s an extra-curricular project, we aren’t sticking rigidly to an exact date, but we’re aiming for 2019 or 2020.”

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

Concerns over democracy as Senate committee votes to nix oil tanker ban

Critics of the Senate’s recommendation to kill Bill C-48 say it goes against popular will

Open casting call issued for Trevor Mack’s first feature-length film

All Indigenous actors, preferably local Chilcotin people, are needed for Portraits From A Fire’s cast

New ferry to B.C.’s central coast sets sail, a year late and $20M over budget

Northern Sea Wolf will cost $76 million when it hits the waters in June

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

Most Read