2024: The Phoenix Returns

Boat Design and Techical Information

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The Phoenix Returns

Detailed Technical Report ↓

At the 2024 RoboBoat Competition, The Phoenix sets sail once more—emerging stronger from the trials and tribulations of its past, UM::Autonomy’s 2024 vessel focuses on simplicity in design and workflow in order to further ensure a reliable, maintainable, and modular system.

Understanding the tighter time constraints of the 2024 season, a greater emphasis was placed on design validation and in-water testing, which was facilitated by maintaining an operable vessel and reducing design complexity from last year. This design strategy was complemented with a testing strategy that relocated the team permanently into its testing environment, made testing a weekly process from the start of the season, and allowed for multiple modes of testing to guarantee success.

Trimaran Design

The Phoenix takes advantage of a trimaran design to maximize stability and minimize water plane area. This design significantly reduces water resistance and enhances speed and maneuverability. At the 2023 RoboBoat competition, Phoenix demonstrated the exceptional strength of this design by successfully navigating high winds - a challenge that other teams were unable to meet. The Phoenix weighs 40 pounds, has a length of 56”, a beam (width) of 30”, and has an overall height of 26”. It can generate thrusts of more than 30 pounds.

Constructed from carbon fiber, Phoenix's hull combines robustness and reduced weight thanks to this material's superior strength-to-weight ratio. The carbon fiber ensures increased durability of the hull and contributes to the lighter overall design, boosting the vessel's performance in various conditions.


The Phoenix's camera provides the main input to the boat's autonomous capabilities. Using the YOLOv8 computer vision algorithm, all competition elements are detected.


The Velodyne Puck (previously known as VLP-16) provides the boat with a 3D map of its surroundings. Using detection data from the camera, the LiDAR provides supplemental depth data to determine objects' distance.

GPS Antennas

Dual antennas enable the boat to ascertain its heading with remarkable sub-degree accuracy. This precision reduces reliance on magnetic sensors, thereby mitigating any potential inaccuracies or inconsistencies due to magnetic disturbances or anomalies in the environment. This positions the vessel for superior navigation performance under a variety of conditions.

T500 Thrusters

Two Blue Robotics T500 Thrusters provide the Phoenix with powerful thrust. By placing the thrusters below the hulls to allow clean water flow at the inlets, ventilation is avoided.

Ubiquiti Rocket

A high-performance, high-range WiFi system allows high speed (around 500Mbps) communication between the boat and shore.

Electrical Box

Our vessel's electrical parts are housed in the electrical box. It is easily removable to allow servicing outside the hull.

6-cell Lithium Battery

A 22.2 Volt, 222 Watt-hour battery provides the boat with a powerful electricity source.

Custom Printed Circuit Board

Motor control is provided by the team's custom PCB. This board is responsible for receiving motor control signals from the computer and remote controller. It also acts as the remote emergency stop by cutting power to motors if remote control signal is lost. To ensure safety and reliability, its firmware is written in Rust, a low-level but memory safe language.

VN-300 GPS and IMU

The VN-300 provides inertial sensors, dual GPS receivers, and sophisticated Kalman filtering algorithms. This combination provides extremely accurate estimates of the vessel's position, velocity, and attitude. It ensures unmatched performance under both static and dynamic conditions, providing high precision direction data for the vessel's navigation tasks.

Beelink SEi12

Featuring an Intel i5-12450H processor and 16GB RAM, this compact computer outperforms many similar-sized alternatives. Despite its superior performance, it maintains impressive efficiency with an idle power draw of just 5 Watts. The processor's integrated graphics enhance computer vision tasks, delivering outstanding results. The computer is outfitted with a 1 Terabyte drive to store data from competition runs.

A Docker-based software environment configured with ROS 1 Noetic ensures that the exact same software is present when testing on a computer and on the boat—allowing team members to use their choice of Linux, Windows, or macOS on their personal computers without differences. The team uses Git as our version control system. Most of the team's code is written in C++, with several Python scripts for small tasks.