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

BREAKING: Large fire at Abbotsford auto wrecker

Crews responding to reports of multiple buildings on fire in industrial area

Langley area curlers: ‘Great’ ambassadors of the sport

Several athletes who play out of Langley Curling Centre were lauded for efforts on and off the ice.

Langley’s Georgia Ellenwood named Big Ten Women’s Field Athlete of the Year

Track and field athlete becomes first heptathlon National Champion at University of Wisconsin

Former Abbotsford gangster arrested for drug operation in India

Jimi Sandhu, deported in 2016, accused of owning drug-manufacturing facility

Teen sees first-hand impact of fundraising efforts in Rwanda

An annual fundraising bike ride for Rwandan education happens this Saturday in Fort Langley.

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Motorcycle rider killed in New Westminster crash

Police did not immediately say who they believed was at fault

Silo roof collapses at Richmond cement plant

WorkSafeBC says no one was hurt

Crews battling large fire at Lower Mainland auto wrecker

Crews responding to reports of multiple buildings on fire in industrial area

EDITORIAL: All children created equal

There are still some who justify President Donald Trump’s treatment of migrant children

BC Ferries posts strong earnings before rate cuts

Last year highest ever for vehicle traffic, most walk-ons in 20 years

More than 150 tremors hit Vancouver Island in last 24 hours

Seismologists monitor to see if pressure will be added to major fault

Snapchat used to make mass shooting threat in Kamloops

RCMP did not dub the threat a hoax, instead called it “unsubstantiated”

Body of young man who drowned in Chilliwack Lake recovered

Searchers find 18-year-old from Surrey seven days after he disappeared

Most Read