An open source on-board computer system

We don’t know how many of you have a boat big enough to have your own integrated computer network, but that doesn’t really matter. Even if you cannot use this project personally, it is impossible not to be impressed by the work [mgrouch] put in the “Bareboat Necessities” project. From the construction of the material to the phenomenal documentation, even earthlings can learn from this project.

In its complete form, the on-board computer system consists of several components that work together to provide a wealth of valuable information to the operator.

Inside the boat computer module

What [mgrouch] called the “Boat Computer” contains a Raspberry Pi 4, a dAISy AIS receiver, an RTL-SDR, a GPS receiver, serial adapters and the myriad of wires needed to make them communicate with each other in a waterproof case. As you might expect, this involves running all connections through waterproof panel brackets.

Combined with a suite of open source software tools, the “Boat Computer” is able to interface with NMEA sensors and hardware, receive weather information directly from NOAA satellites, track ships and, of course, plot your current location on a digital map. The computer itself is designed to stay safely below deck, while the operator interacts with it via an Argonaut M7 waterproof HDMI touchscreen located in the cockpit.

For some people, this may be enough. But for those who want to make it big, [mgrouch] details the “Boat Gateway” device in more detail. This unit contains an LTE equipped WiFi router running OpenWrt and all the external antennas needed to turn the boat into a floating hotspot. Of course, it also has RJ45 sockets for connecting to other onboard system components, and it even includes an M5Stack Core with LAN module so it can display a selected subset of sensor readings and navigation data.

If you want to do something similar on a slightly on a smaller scale, we’ve seen navigation computers pushing all the data to a portable screen or even a reused eReader.


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Gordon K. Morehouse