The Rules

 

First things first: we need to define what constitutes a successful passage. Even though we would REALLY like to go large scale on our first attempt (and we might still do!), out of practicality we decided to keep things a bit more contained to start. If our vessel can get from any point on the coast of California to any point on the coast of Hawaii we'll call it a success and open the sparkling cider. 

To make things interesting, we had to put some rules in place. After all, what separates "a model boat" from "a boat"? I figure it has to do something with size. We could have attempted to build a 12 Metre (yeah, right!), put the proper automation in place (yeah, right again!) and send it on its way. In addition to being a tad above our budget, what could go wrong with 70 feet of garage-build and hobby-programmed goodness attempting to cross some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world? Plus we really couldn't figure out how to transport a contraption of this size on the roof of an average sports sedan. And it's supposed to be a challenge, right?

The other thing about "model boats" is that they (usually) don't carry a crew. For the purposes of this endeavor we decided to augment this feature and define it as "being completely self contained and self-sufficient without any external guidance" (there must be a better way to describe this). It doesn't necessarily mean "disconnected" or "off-the-grid", just not being able to accept any external signaling affecting its decision making process.

And in the spirit of overdoing we decided to extend the whole "autonomy" idea to the energy sources and propulsion system. Taking it a step further, we will attempt to make the whole trip "energy neutral" - the goal would be to arrive at the destination point with _at least_ as much stored energy on board as we had at the moment of departure, and all energy derived from the environment during the trip should be 100% renewable. To make things easier to calculate, we will "start" the passage with zero stored energy on board. This way, no matter what the amount of energy stored on board is at the end of the passage, it should be greater than or equal to zero (unless we find a way to expend more energy than we can capture from the environment - now THAT would be an achievement!). This might lead to somewhat "underwhelming" start, but will make the math much simpler.

Then there is the thing about the budget. This is one rule we would gladly break, but it might lead to serious negative consequences (winters in Southern California are milder than the North East, but still - nothing beats a roof over your head!). Plus it makes it easier to accept reality when things go terribly wrong.

 

So, with all these considerations in mind, we present ... (drumroll please) ...

 

FORMULA PILOTFISH:

    • Start: Dana Point, CA (33°28'2"N 117°41'53"W);

    • Finish: Any point on the Island of Maui (approximately 20°48'N 156°20'W);

    • Maximum size: at any given time during the passage no structural element of the vessel can be outside of a virtual box measuring 100 cm x 100 cm x 100 cm (or approximately 3.28 ft * 3.28 ft * 3.28 ft);

    • At no time during the passage the vessel can receive signaling from external sources designed to affect its trajectory, propulsion or any other decision making logic. This does not include basic, non-targeted signaling (like the one needed to determine the current GPS position) or naturally occurring signaling and events (e.g. magnetic fields, celestial body positions, wind speed, etc), so long as the signals are acquired, analyzed and reacted upon solely by equipment and logic fully contained on-board the vessel;

    • The vessel should derive all energy needed for completing the passage from external sources;