London, Nov 26: A retired NATO scientist is all set to launch his toy boat on its first unmanned trip across the Atlantic.
The creator, 65-year-old Robin Lovelock, has spent four years developing a craft he believes can survive the 6,000-mile journey. The boat, named Snoopy Sloop, is 4 feet long, weighs just 30lbs and is held together in parts by bathroom light cord, reports the Telegraph.
The boat has already demonstrated its endurance, having completed more than 5,000 miles during seven months of continuous sailing, albeit on the gentler waters of Bray Lake, just off the M4 motorway near Windsor.
Lovelock built the boat using off-the-shelf parts that he bought from the internet at a cost of less than 450 pounds. A tracking device will emit a signal every hour to update Lovelock back home about the boat’s progress. The boat will be powered by the wind, but navigated by a solar-powered computer and GPS system.
These will control the rudder and steer the boat on a preprogrammed route along the Channel, then south towards the Azores to catch the trade winds to the Bahamas and onwards to land near the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers came ashore at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Lovelock’s attempt is being made as part of an international contest, the Microtransat Challenge, to become the first to send an unmanned from south of Ireland to the Bahamas.
So far, three attempts have been made since the transatlantic challenge began in 2010 – two by French academics and one by a team from the University of Aberystwyth.
The small figure of the cartoon character Snoopy on board was installed “as a wind up to academics who take it too seriously”.
Lovelock is relaxed about some of the hazards and concerned about others.
“There are certain things to worry about and others not to. The likely problems will be with reliability, and how the navigation system works with the tides. I got hooked about four years ago. I didn’t even play with model boats when I was a boy. I sometimes tinker on the boat in the lounge, but am usually banished to the games room by my wife,” he said. (ANI)