Unmanned ocean vehicles are sometimes referred to as the “satellites of the sea,” because they’re incredibly durable, operate largely autonomously, navigate long distances, and are used for remote research, exploration, detection, and data collection. The vehicles designed and built by Payne Kilbourn and his company, Unmanned Ocean Vehicles Inc., are energy scavenging vessels that rely on a combination of wind, photovoltaic (solar), and motion power. As Kilbourn developed his 20-foot prototype, he looked at a number of PLC-based solutions before settling on Opto 22’s SNAP PAC input/output modules and programmable automation controllers.
The SNAP PAC System is able to handle the large quantity and variety of inputs and outputs needed for power and navigation, as well as sensing, monitoring, and gathering data. In doing so, the SNAP PAC serves as a central controller that connects to and regulates a multi-vendor team of micro controllers and marine instrumentation, each with its own area of responsibility, including wing (sail) control, steering, and power management.