Sailing a drone boat around the world

Published on June 30th, 2014

An unmanned non-stop round the world yacht race? That’s what French journalist Christophe Guigueno has proposed in the launch of The Dronautic Revolution, a competition opened to autonomous yachts able to navigate with no man on board, around the world and with no fossil or nuclear power. Christophe explains the plan…

Why have you imagined Dronautic?

This idea came to me when I saw the first images and navigating drones; it was six months ago. I asked myself if there were lots of projects of offshore navigating drones and it looked like it was possible could count them with one hand only. That’s why I imagined a program of competition from the yacht design contest to the round the world race to help the existing projects to compare themselves, show their ability to navigate offshore and to create an emulation to develop new projects and new ideas.

Which concepts have you already found?

In the United States, there are two. First one can be presented as the pioneer in the way they have a big advance over the others. It’s the Saildrone team, which has already sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii. It’s a big team who has imagined a very interesting trimaran. I hope they will be interested the Dronautic competition program. On the East coast, students have tried to cross the Atlantic with a solar done, the 3 meters long Scout. But it looks like they have lost the boat after 175 promising days. May be they will develop a bigger solar drone to enter the circuit? Another interesting project for its environment goals and the design of its hull is the Protei imagined by Cesar Harada. Since the time the web site has been launched, I already received few message to present other projects. And I hope that the communication about Dronautic will give ideas to different teams all around the world, from students to professionals of the yachting design and building.

In that way, what does a Dronautic team looks like?

The Dronautic concept is opened to everybody but I think that students, engineers and navigators teams will be very interested in this new challenge. To launch the competition, I will announce the Dronautic’s box rule in September this year and a yacht design competition. Designing a 6 meters long Dronautic will make people start form a white page. Everything has to be imagined from the choice of the number of hulls, the power system (sail, wing-sail, solar, both of them or another one?), the piloting system, the communication with the organisation, etc. This challenge needs lots of knowledge and I think we can find them in universities, big transport companies and professional yacht teams. Non-forgetting a Dronautic will also have to fret a mini-laboratory. All this will make students, engineers, sailors to communicate together to enter the game, and, of course, to find sponsors.

Why is the round the world race scheduled for 2018?

I have chosen 2018 for two reasons. The first one is that making a drone boat sailing around the world is not an easy challenge. For this, 4 years won’t be long to build teams, find sponsors, develop ideas and make navigating new Dronautics. The other one is that, in June 1968, will be celebrated the 50 years of the start of the Golden Globe, the first ever round the world yacht race. What better image than to try to launch unmanned yachts around the world 50 years after? As we don’t know yet if a Dronautic can do it, which will be its time around the world of the first one to come back? May be 312 days or less? Better than did Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969?


Photo: Robin Knox-Johnston waving aboard his 32ft yacht Suhali off Falmouth, England after becoming the first man to sail solo non-stop around the globe. Photo © Bill Rowntree / PPL

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