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Unmanned Boat Reaches Hawaii; New Zealand Next

Damon McMillan and friends spent three years designing, building, and perfecting a solar-powered boat called the SeaCharger. The vessel is eight feet long and weighs 60 pounds, and is powered by two plastic solar panels. How far can a boat like this travel on autopilot? On June 11, McMillan launched it into the surf off the coast of Half Moon Bay, California.

An older man who has been watching the entire time approaches me and tells me that he’s sorry that I lost control of my boat and that he’s sure it’ll wash up on the beach somewhere. I assure him that the boat is on autopilot, going exactly where it’s supposed to be going. “And where is that?” he asks. “Hawaii.” The look on his face is priceless.

Indeed, the idea of this tiny, homemade boat surviving 2,400 miles of open ocean to reach Hawaii seems foolishly unrealistic, and I know that more than anybody else. With help from friends, I built the eight-foot-long, autonomous, foam-and-fiberglass, solar-powered SeaCharger in my garage – not to make money or to win a contest, but simply as a challenge.

McMillan tracked the SeaCharger by satellite when it checked in every two hours (or didn’t). On July 22, he was there at Mahukona Harbor in Hawaii when his boat arrived. That’s some accomplishment! But the SeaCharger is still going. After five days of maintenance, it was launched again from Hawaii on July 27, bound for New Zealand. McMillan writes about building the boat and the experience of tracking it at Make. You can keep track of the SeaCharger as it makes its way to New Zealand at the project’s website. -via Metafilter

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I like the idea of building something that goes out and explores the world without you.

But I wonder if it could be made practical... Everything is expensive in Hawaii, due to shipping. If he had a friend living on the islands, he could keep sending the craft back and forth with small quantities of cargo. Just about anything from the states, and perhaps tropical fruits or such on the returns.
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