Set sail in the Pico-powered ‘Roboat’

Disclaimer: the Roboat is tiny, so only mice will be able to physically set sail. You could enjoy it vicariously by watching the sailing mouse, but Roboat can most definitely not hold your weight.

Roboat out on the water
Fly Sail my pretty

This is exactly the type of simple project we can see ourselves cobbling together from waterproof recyclables around the house before flexing our shipwright skills on the River Cam. All the tourists will go wild for it.

Roboat inventor Mr. Nr keeps his cards close to his chest in this build video

Parts list

  • Raspberry Pi Pico W
  • Battery pack
  • Mini electric fan motor
  • Three ingeniously repurposed plastic contact lens solution bottles (plus one very important water bottle lid)

Bath time test run

single berth test roboat in the bath
One contact lens solution bottle does not a motorboat make…

Roboat was much slimmer in its initial form, but a test run in the bath revealed that the base needed to be wider to provide stability. Two more plastic bottles were added to make a triple-berth beauty. The flat shape of the contact lens solution bottles makes for a nice catamaran-style vessel sitting low on the water.

… three, on the other hand

Bottle cap motor chassis

A seemingly innocuous water bottle lid plays a major part in the build, keeping the mini electric motor — the boat’s engine — safely high and dry as it powers the fan.


While it looks like a normal propellor you would find sticking out the back of a boat sitting in the water, this is a fan motor, blowing air in different directions to propel and steer Roboat. The fan motor board is wired directly to the Pico, and Roboat’s captain controls its direction via a smartphone app he designed. He used LightBlue® software to set up the Bluetooth connection between the app and the Pico.

Controlling the roboat via app
Mr. Nr controlling his invention via a smartphone app

The video also shows a Wegmatt dAISy HAT AIS receiver, AIS being the Automatic Identification System by which vessels report their position, course, speed, and identity in order to avoid collisions on the water. It doesn’t show how the board is used this build, though. The HAT is designed for use with Raspberry Pi computers, but it can also be used with other devices; we found an example of an AIS Radar made with a dAISy HAT and a Pico from Kywalda (Arne Groh) on GitHub. And our friends at The Pi Hut pointed us towards this handy step-by-step guide for building your own chartplotter using a Raspberry Pi 3, OpenCPN, and dAISy.


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