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Open Source Maritime Instrument Project

Open Source Instruments for Water Based Vehicles and Systems, Focused on Affordable Data Collection and Quantification.

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We are building a community to source innovative hardware and software solutions to the problem of expensive and closed design maritime systems.

Our goal is to provide an inexpensive way for mariners to collect and quantify data in order to reduce expenses, increase income, and conserve resources from fish to petroleum. Other groups like scientists and researchers will also benefit from well known, transparent systems to advance their work on a limited budget.

Designs that teach theory while building have the potential to add extra income or a whole new business for individuals engaged in an industry with a sometimes uncertain future. The small crews of future automated vessels will need to have strong engineering and coding skills in addition to the skills of the sea.

Approximately two thousand super large cargo container ships move an estimated ninety percent of goods to consumer markets. They are heavy polluters who must rely on a shrinking profit margin. Large, well-capitalized ship owners can build ships like the Maersk Triple E. Excellent design and ongoing quantification of all aspects of the ship makes it a leader in naval architecture and efficiency.

Fewer resources can be leveraged by small owners and operators in developing regions or anywhere money is in short supply. Our project aims to design and assist operators of all sizes run their vessels with less expense, greater safety, fewer emissions, and more innovation gathered from the deep knowledge of related communities.

A modular system with a core unit is planned; AIS, SAR, GPS, RDF, sonars, radars, and automation as well as mobile and fixed location sensor packages are candidates for development. Our list is super long and exciting, we hope you will contribute your thoughts.

This project is now public and at a very early stage even though behind the scenes development has been going on since 2010.

  • I've Been Banned

    Paul Bruno05/19/2015 at 19:05 2 comments

    The open source project mentioned previously, that forms a core component of my main open maritime instrument system, has banned me for a single polite post criticizing their behavior. If anyone has faced this kind of bait and switch when integrating work released under GPL3 Non-Com, Attrib. please PM me. This effectively puts my progress back a year.

  • An Engineering Problem Would Make Me Very Happy

    Paul Bruno05/19/2015 at 03:58 0 comments

    The Not So Fun Stuff

    It's been a while since my last log update. A month ago I started down the road of finalizing the application for my U.S. 501c non-profit status and the accompanying LLC structure. The Open Source Maritime Instrument Project will be released under GPL version 3.

    This process is tedious and required that I get my technical plans to the point where I could reference the other open source projects my project will use for certain functions.

    One of my main core components touches many other modules in my basic block diagrams. In mid March an open source project that developed the hardware and software I plan to integrate under GPL3 suddenly stopped selling hardware which was already restricted. The news dropped in early May that no further hardware would be available for the foreseeable future.

    It will be impossible to integrate a open source design if there is no way to bench test hardware I've been trying to obtain for more than one year. The admins of the project refuse to supply either a schematic or cad file of the boards.

    This leaves me with the option to redesign the project core entirely or buy a used unit and reverse engineer the hardware. Reverse engineering hardware, even if it is allowed under the license, is scorned by nasty and threatening moderators who have kept me away from their forums by abusing their position and other members trying to obtain hardware.

    Right now I'm reviewing my options, hopefully good news will come later this week.

    The Fun Stuff

    There have been few updates because April and early May were very busy. The main goal of the project is to design and present a central module that has everything a boat needs for safe basic operation. Modules will be added for "missions" like fishing or subsea exploration. It will be exciting to see what the community requests and designs. Everything in the project will be open source and we will have strong documentation on our eventual wiki about how to build things.

    My base protocol is going to be Robot Operating System (ROS) developed by Willow Garage because it's powerful, flexible, and of course open source. Plus, it hands off data directly to another device rather than routing it in ring fashion like most other marine protocols, which are closed and expensive standards so I don't know (wink) for sure.

    Even the IMO SOLAS convention is closed and costs thousands of dollars for my intended use. Once some additional admin stuff is settled we will have a proper website and crowd source campaign. Please do comment on the project, it helps immensely to know people are interested. The project is a bit premature but the HAD prize money would give us a good launch.

    ROS is my choice since diverse maritime assets from navigation beacons on land to SAR satellites use different protocols. A truly universal system must be able to integrate everything from big industry players to one person workshops.

    Another reason for ROS is the plan for autonomous functions on board vessels of all sizes. This added layer of sensing and security is missing in commercial products and is something that is requested by my clients quite often. Plans for a remote sensing and automation module will be released shortly after the main core system.

    Look for more posts to this log going forward. Schematics are drawn for the original configuration and just to be safe I'm making back up plans with a workaround for the unavailable hardware designs.

    I'm not going to identify the open source project that is obstructing my access to hardware designs in hope we can come to a quick and fair resolution.

  • How Does it Work?

    Paul Bruno04/09/2015 at 02:37 0 comments

    A couple of questions come up fairly often when talking about this project and this post will hopefully give everyone a good idea of the goals for the next few months.

    Accessible and Open Hardware

    We are dedicated to the idea of accessible construction techniques for those who don't have access to SMD and other equipment like a powerful scope. Though-hole component versions will give builders the opportunity to scavenge many passive parts and hardware if the budget is bare bones.

    For the components that are difficult to solder, or unavailable in a DIP package, we will design breakout boards and modules. This is not ideal and hopefully there is a better solution.

    Later, high performance versions of some instruments will be designed for a better funded and more demanding application. The stability system for my world speed sailing record attempt with "Hardtack" is a prime example of something that can grow out of our initial utilitarian instrument and sensor designs.

    All of the designs for "Hardtack" will be open sourced once we have reached our speed goals. The record is about 72 mph and everyone goes to a calm and windy bay in Namibia for their speed runs. My attempt in 2017 will take place on Northern Lake Michigan which is one of the only freshwater attempts because the water density increases drag slightly. There's a strong possibility "Hardtack" will break the 100mph barrier in 2017, and we will go back in 2018 for the 200kph try.

    Where is this Community?

    An official web presence is coming in the next two months. Funding and content creation are at the top of my to do list. There are a few other looming sub-projects that need to be completed before launch.

    Block diagrams are coming along as fast as I can read this folder full of data sheets. I don't have any precious ideas in this game other than to reach the goals set out in the other sections of this project. All of this work might get thrown into the wastebasket once contributors chime in, and that's fine with me. I'm a better organizer and communicator than I am an engineer and everyone will eventually find their roles.

    There is going to be a Kickstarter campaign for this project. Not everyone will like this but the negatives are far fewer than the positive results of reaching our long term goals. All of the legalities and structure alone is enough to keep me completely free of free time. Please consider backing the Kickstarter project since we are offering some unique rewards. (A live link will be up shortly)

    Just getting the rule books covering all the international conventions will be thousands of dollars if we need to pay full price. We need this information that is closed source and not available anywhere else to be sure we are making our designs compatible with international and sovereign Admiralty Law.

    All of the Arduino drama in the past months makes me extra careful in how we draft the foundational documents. I won't even go into the issues with non-profit status.

    On the good side I hope to fully launch a weekly newsletter by June 1, 2015 to keep everyone informed of advancements and industry news without visiting the website.

  • So it begins...

    Paul Bruno04/07/2015 at 05:11 0 comments

    This project emerged five years ago while trying to reverse engineer a forward looking sonar unit fitted to my work boat. The circuit board was dead simple and looked like a home etch job even though it was manufactured by a major military contractor in the 1970's.

    There were only a handful of active components and evidently analog sonar is powered by 48vdc and black magic.

    A new sonar head and interpreter could have been fitted but that wasn't in the budget. Why couldn't there be a micro controller library and driver design for a variety of transducers that would output a simple data stream?

    My frustration was based on something I wanted to do, it was not essential to my welfare or survival. After taking a job writing about maritime topics I saw many dire problems firsthand and received many more messages from seafarers.

    Plenty of these problems could have been fixed with technology that was out of reach of many of these people. The entire Somali piracy problem was based on fishing disputes that could have been solved with monitoring and enforcement before things got out of control.

    Fishermen in the developing world often operate without radios, navigation, or safety beacons. This leads to dangerous isolation and possibly fishing outside of allowed boundaries.

    All of the problems with water based vehicles and support systems can be solved with good design and generosity of the open source hardware and software communities. So today we start to change that situation.

View all 4 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    A little bit about the project build philosophy and goals are important to understand as we try to serve the greatest number of people. Forking is awesome, but please consider the end user and their resources.

    Students and other low budget builders need single layer circuit boards and through hole components to keep learning high and expense low.

    High performance miniaturized versions suitable for ROV and autonomous vessels are on our timeline. Multi layer boards and SMD equipment isn't available to everyone so please consider including both types of designs in your project if possible.

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silvio biasiol wrote 04/14/2016 at 20:42 point

I'm doing in small my own version of green cruises.. I hope it will inspire some people! Anyway hope you can find something useful :) https://hackaday.io/project/10652-green-powered-sailboat

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Paul Bruno wrote 04/09/2015 at 02:46 point

Thanks for the support. The first project is a core unit with basic navigation and sensor expansion. It should give you most of what you need on board and will include connectivity to remotely monitor things like smoke alarms and bilge pumps. Reading your tactile project makes me dream of haptic boat controls.

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haydn jones wrote 04/07/2015 at 09:24 point

looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I live on a 26ft sail boat and am looking on modernising my electronics and instruments.

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