This autonomous boat is attempting to cross an ocean using only solar power

IDG News Service | May 25, 2016

The "Seacharger" hopes to become the first unmanned vehicle to cross an ocean using only solar energy during its month-long voyage from California to Hawaii.

Humans have been making voyages across the ocean for centuries, but with the advent of GPS tracking and remote controls, you can now be a captain without ever running the risk of getting seasick.

Meet Damon McMillan. He is the land-side captain of the “Seacharger,” which is on a mission to become the first unmanned, autonomous boat to cross an ocean using only solar power.

McMillan and three of his friends started the project two and a half years ago in his basement, but making an unmanned solar powered boat was not always the plan.

“We were inspired by a competition that they have every year where they send robotic sailboats across the Atlantic. And so far that’s never really been accomplished. And so we started out on this sailboat, and then shifted over to solar power.”

The Seacharger is only about seven and a half feet long, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in innovation.

Two ultrathin, 100 watt solar panels power the ship…storing any extra energy in battery packs for use at night or on cloudy days. A satellite modem, GPS system, and some homegrown software give McMillan the ability to control the boat from hundreds of miles away.

It’s a system that’ll need to work flawlessly if the Seacharger is to make the journey from California across the Pacific and into Hawaii.

"There’s very little that I can do if something goes wrong though. So it’s just gonna be a lot of monitoring it, keeping my fingers crossed, probably a lot of prayer, and just hoping that it does its job."

McMillan says he plans to launch the “Seacharger” on Memorial Day, May 30th. You can track the boat’s progress online at:

Ships ahoy!