Técnico Solar Boat Leads Field on Electronically Controlled Hydrofoils

19/04/2021 by Técnico Solar Boat

About Técnico Solar Boat

Created in 2015 by students of diverse engineering fields from Instituto Superior Técnico, Técnico Solar Boat (TSB) was founded to bet on electrical mobility and respond to the sustainability problems we encounter nowadays.

This purpose leads to the idea of creating a boat moved exclusively by renewable energies, leaving aside the traditional fossil fuels. This led to the birth of the prototype São Rafael, named after one of the ships from Vasco da Gama’s armada on his first voyage to India in 1497–1499.

The SR01 is our first prototype entirely powered by solar energy, which participated in two years of competitions. It was followed by our improved, most recent solar prototype the SR02 which sailed for the first time in the 2019’s competitions.

In this season, the third solar prototype started to be built, the SR03 and we are also working on the first hydrogen-powered prototype, the São Miguel 01 (SM01), that will be also a competition boat. This technology has a huge potential and this is a huge step in the history of TSB.

Events & Competitions

One of the main objectives of our team is to participate in the biggest solar boat competition in the world, the Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge. The first that we participated in this competition was in the season 2016/2017 with our first solar prototype. The competition has the following set of races to test all of the teams:

  • Qualification Race: This race had the purpose of deciding the teams that would compete head-to-head at the Championship Race;
  • Endurance Race: The objective of this race is to test the efficiency and autonomy of the boat through the maximum number of laps in a 0.5 nautical miles circuit, with a total duration of 3 hours;
  • Slalom Race: The obstacle course meant to test the boats’ agility and maneuverability through several curves;
  • Championship Race: One-on-One races in a quarter-final format.

We are the unique team from Iberian Peninsula and the season 2018/2019 was the debut season of São Rafael 02 (SR02), a lighter, faster and more efficient boat, with which we have reached a prominent position worldwide!

We competed with 34 teams from 14 different nationalities and took 2nd place on the podium (A-class) in a race that took place in Monaco.

Last season, 2019/2020, the 7th Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge went remote due to the coronavirus pandemic. The challenge launched by the organization was based on three fundamental concepts of the competition: technological innovation, sustainable engineering and team spirit. We participated in the three categories and we won the innovation prize and stood out among the eleven participating teams.

Since there, was no competition in Monaco and our team searched for ways to overtake the situation. Therefore, we decided to start our own event, Odisseia TSB. This way, we finished the season traveling along the coast and doing some crossings here in Portugal( figure 2). It was a great opportunity to expose our boat to the whole country and to test its capabilities. We expect to make this idea grow and maybe one day to go through the English Channel, for example.

Odisseia 2020 one stage path.

Working With Kvaser

After experiencing with other protocols in our previous boat, SR01, we decided to implement a CAN Bus for the first time on SR02 to allow the communication between the several systems.

It is especially important to control the motors, the hydrofoils system and to check state variables like temperatures, voltages, currents and so on.

In a first stage, we took advantage of Kvaser CanKing to monitor and analyze CAN messages on the bus, to check if they were correctly sent and formatted, if values were what we expect and thus detect problems and its sources.

Then, Kvaser Memorator Pro 2xHS v2 and Kvaser Database Editor help us to log data from the vessel to further analysis. With this info, we were able to detect problems and the source of them and thus be able to fix them. Otherwise, it would have been very hard to detect them.

One of our best improvements done during the 2019/2020 season was the electronically controlled hydrofoils.

Hydrofoils allow a boat to get elevated over the water line in such a way that the hull doesn’t touch the water. This is one way of reducing the drag forces exerted on the boat, thus allowing it to consume less energy for the same speed. We have been working on the implementation of hydrofoils for a few years now and we finally made it happen, as it is possible to see at Figure 2.

The path to have fully functional hydrofoils was not easy, several problems were faced, both mechanical and control-wise. By analysing data from the vessel, we managed to overcome them, detecting why they were happening. This was only possible because of data logging capabilities provided by Kvaser Memorator Pro 2xHS v2.

To better and more easily analyse data, we developed a Matlab App that allow us to extract interesting data from a .mat file generated with the Kvaser Memorator Configuration Tool. As it is possible see at figures 3 and 4, this app has several modes, that allow us to see data from different ways; at one of them, we can select some variables from the available ones and easily navigate with sliders or inserting the desired period of time; at another one, we can see the path of the boat and how some variables change along that path or check the position of the boat for each instant of time.

Matlab App to analyse data.

At this moment, we are already working on the development of our third solar-powered boat, SR03, and finishing our first hydrogen-powered boat, São Miguel 01 (SM01).

They will both use a Kvaser Memorator Pro 2xHS v2, that will allow us to find and solve problems quicker and be more prepared to the international competitions that are coming.

Images of the boat during the Odisseia 2020 tour.


Técnico Solar Boat

Técnico Solar Boat is an university project consisting of cross-degree engineering students at Instituto Superior Técnico that work together on the development of a solar powered boat. Its main purpose is to participate in worldwide engineering competitions organized by Solar Sport One and Yatch Club de Monaco.

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