High tech control for Well Enhancer - RC Groups
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Feb 14, 2013, 10:28 AM
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tweety777's Avatar
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High tech control for Well Enhancer

Hello guys,

As some of you will probably know I'm working on a model of the diving support vessel Well Enhancer.
With her big size (1,76m long, 0,30m wide) she makes a good model for having pretty much everything that can move on the real ship to work on the model as well.
As I have always been a fan of making everything moving it is no surprise that I like to try that on model boats as well.
To me it gives that extra touch of liveliness.
It's like the X-factor or whatever one wants to call it.
When the thought came to mind that I would like to build a model of this vessel I soon made a picture in my mind of what the end result should be.
At that point I thought that the best possible would be say 12 working functions so at that point that became my desire, though I kept in mind that I wanted to have more functions working, even if that would mean I'd have to control them by means of switches on the boat.

When I started building her I met someone at the club who turned out to be working on a system to control his boats with quite some more functions then I had imagined that would be possible.
At some point I started talking about my dream for this project and he said to me that this dream certainly IS possible, though not through easy roads.
As I like a challenge (it's what keeps me motivated and one of the things I like so much about this hobby) I didn't see the problem of trying this method.
Quite some time later (I think he waited with telling me the secret of his system so my model would be far enough completed, or because of the secrecy he signed with the people with whom he was working on that system) he told me the key for his system was Arduino.
Soon after that I ordered an Arduino Uno starter kit and started experimenting.
Last year my friend send me an email containing his programs for the Arduinos, working programs which I can use as starting point for my boat.
As programming doesn't seem to be all that much fun to me I try to keep the programming to a minimum, mostly adjusting software where needed.

Last weekend I managed to get the first Arduino to do it's job commanded by software which I build with some help from my father.
I didn't any more need any tough codes indicating which servo I wanted to control and then stating what value it's status should be but rather using track bars to control the propulsion.
Now that I managed to control that I won't have any trouble adding as much servo functions as one can possibly want as it's simply a matter of copying some text...
At this point I only managed to control the Arduino with the Arduino connected to my laptop by USB cable.
When my stepper motors arrive some time soon and when I have those build in I will start trying to control the propulsion with the USB cable attached to the communications Arduino and when I managed to get that working I'll try controlling Well Enhancer wireless.

I think that's enough back ground information, now on to some plans:
After having thought about adjusting my transmitter I jumped to using the laptop as transmitter later on when I realised that the adjustments to the transmitter would make it all much more complicated or would have me stuck with controls that don't give me the kind of control I want.
Since this week I started to realise that the laptop as transmitter would be a nice idea though it would make it a little harder to get used to the controls of the propulsion (a big issue to me) so the thought came to mind that I could use a tablet, click that in a home made control panel which is to have rotating throttle sticks controlling both steering and throttle (would need 2 of those for Well Enhancer), something similar though not rotating for the bow thruster and then some buttons for other important functions.
All other functions would get dedicated buttons on the tablet.
Though this seems to be the best solution (it also gives a longer sailing time due to the longer battery capacity of the tablet when compared to the laptop) I will at first start with the laptop.
I will use the laptop at all times to test whether or not the new functions in the software work properly before writing the software such that the tablet can use it.

Now on to some functions:
-Throttle (likely to be 2 functions for the main engines, 1 for the bow thruster)
-Steering (2 functions)
-Dynamic positioning (having the boat maintain position by input from gyroscopes)
-Anchors (working independently)
-Flushing the anchors
-Fire extinguishers on the helo deck
-Fire monitors (independently rotating)
-Prepare to sail (turning the nav lights on, increasing the amount of cooling water, giving a burst of smoke from the exhausts, starting the radars)
-Panama lights (3 in total, 1 of which can be on at any time)
-Suez search light (due to the lack of room for any controls this 1 will only be turned on and off)
-Signal lights giving information about the status of the ship, controlled by clicking on the name of the state and then the corresponding lights will be turned on automatically
-Search lights (fully rotating, again each independently)
-Deck lights in 2 groups
-Interior lights (cabin lights go on and off random)
-4 life boats (throttle, rudder and probably turning the electro magnets on to keep the hoisting cable attached)
-Davits for the lifeboats
-1 hyperbaric lifeboat with it's davit (lifeboat also has throttle, rudder and turning the electro magnets on)
-1 RHIB, this one only having 2 throttles and the electro magnet
-Davit for the RHIB
-2 ROV's, hopefully with working arms and at least having an onboard camera and lights and diving control and 2 throttles
-A frames for the ROV's
-Main crane (up/down, left/right, main winch and secondary winch and lights off course)
-Secondary crane on the rear deck (knuckle, up/down, left/right and 1 winch)
-Another secondary crane on the dive area sporting the same functions

I thought that was pretty much it.

Greetings Josse
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Feb 14, 2013, 11:27 AM
blutoh's Avatar
Hi Josse,

This is great. Umi is working on a project to do schottel drive control with Arduino and I am getting involved too, although I don't even have an arduino yet. I plan to use these drives on a future project, so I want to begin learning how (I've been working on a R Pi sound project). Umi's thread is here in this forum. I hope you are planning to share some details about you interfaces, it would give us a jump start on what we want to accomplish.

Last edited by blutoh; Feb 14, 2013 at 11:36 AM.
Feb 14, 2013, 01:29 PM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
Hi Pete,

I will in time but at the moment I'd like to develop it some more so it will be more useful for others.

Greetings Josse
Feb 14, 2013, 05:39 PM
Spreckels Lake, GGP, SF, CA
craig_c's Avatar
Great project Josse! Wow! (and exactly the kind of thing this forum is meant to encourage and inspire. Classic mechatronics . )

Thank you for inviting us along for the journey.

Something you might want to check out....

Adafruit 16-Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Driver - I2C interface - PCA9685

Originally Posted by click on picture above for link
<clip>....what an excellent add-on this would be. Using only two pins, control 16 free-running PWM* outputs! You can even chain up 62 breakouts to control up to 992 PWM* outputs....<clip>
Daisy-chainable to control up to 992 servos or LEDS or combinations thereof! What could we do with 992 servos.....

*pulse width modulation
Last edited by craig_c; Feb 14, 2013 at 06:37 PM.
Feb 14, 2013, 07:06 PM
blutoh's Avatar
Yeah, but the big trick is going to be getting 992 signals to all those servos
Feb 14, 2013, 09:48 PM
made of fire and pop rocks
bgnome's Avatar
I think the way it goes is that each driver board is addressable and then you direct it via code..

just looking at the picture of the board up there, it looks like the six pads in the upper right hand corner of the board are the "jumpers"for assigning the board its location on the serial connection.. .
old hat stuff really if you ever had to set micro switches to assign an old modem or sound card or the like... or... set up 50+ PID controllers in a 2gen PLC industrial sensor network.

But I'm sure Blutoh was being facitious

and looks like I need to reboot the pi. its showing me that my spelling is horrrendous, but not giving me suggestions to correct them
Feb 15, 2013, 12:47 AM
Spreckels Lake, GGP, SF, CA
craig_c's Avatar
Originally Posted by bgnome
...and looks like I need to reboot the pi. its showing me that my spelling is horrrendous, but not giving me suggestions to correct them
LOL - And that's why I got my first built-up computer - Wordstar and SpellCheck (So long ago the program name really was SpellCheck).

Ok, choplifter too....
Last edited by craig_c; Feb 15, 2013 at 12:58 AM.
Feb 15, 2013, 01:38 AM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
Thanks for the kind words guys!

That servo controller could well be needed, especially when my plans are coming together for the propulsion controls.

Greetings Josse
Feb 15, 2013, 04:31 AM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
I see I haven't mentioned anything about my concept.
As I mentioned I'll be using the Arduino system.
As 1 single Arduino would not have the capacity to control all the function I want to control I have quickly decided that I would use 4 Arduinos.
As Arduinos need to be connected by means of wiring It's only a small step to not have the Arduinos right next to each other, but rather have them placed closer to the functions they'll need to control.
That means I'll have 4 separate "computers" as I like to call them.
One has already been placed in the stern to control the stern propulsion systems, main and 1 secondary crane with their lights and I might use 1 pin for the deck lights though their will be another Arduino controlling that function as well.
Then there will be a midship computer which main task will be handling the communications to the shore and controlling the propulsion when the DP mode is turned on and possibly also the ROV's and off course sending the commands for the life boats through.
Then there will be a bow computer controlling the anchor winches, water pumps (2 off them), davits, possibly the ROV's if that would be too much for the centre computer.
Last but not least there will be an superstructure computer which will turn the interior lights on and off randomly, control the signal lights, control the water pumps when needed for the fire monitors or the fire extinguishers on the helo deck, controlling both fire related functions in other means, the Prepare to sail functions and the lights on the helo deck.

Then I have a question:
Are there any pot meters that have no limitations on they're rotation?
I could well use some for input on which angle I want for the schottels.

Greetings Josse
Feb 15, 2013, 08:10 AM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
Don't need this message any more, didn't think it through enough...
Greetings Josse
Last edited by tweety777; Feb 15, 2013 at 08:36 AM.
Feb 15, 2013, 08:35 AM
blutoh's Avatar
Originally Posted by tweety777
..............Then I have a question:
Are there any pot meters that have no limitations on they're rotation?
I could well use some for input on which angle I want for the schottels.......
Josse, take look at digital pots. I think there are version that may work for you, but not sure. Skystream is using them in his project here:


Feb 15, 2013, 08:43 AM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
I think I already found some:

Then on to the second transmitter which is to transmit the video signals:

And the gyroscopes:

What do you guys think about these?

Greetings Josse
Feb 15, 2013, 09:00 AM
blutoh's Avatar
The pots look good, they have a 10 rotation limit, should be workable. I was looking at some very similar transceivers myself. Six channel radios just don't cut it, and I haven't figured out a way to tap into the transmitters rf deck and send serial data. Actaully, I'm not sure that is even the right approach, so I to think auxiliary transceivers are a better solution. One of the other transceivers I looked at is OpenLRS. I have not given any thought on how to feed the base station transceiver, e.g. tablet, smartphone, custom control box, etc. So much to learn !

Feb 15, 2013, 09:03 AM
Registered User
tweety777's Avatar
Hi Pete,

I'm placing an Arduino Nano between the laptop and the transceiver that will send and receive the data.
Controlling the Arduino from the laptop is easier to do then going straight to the transceiver.

Greetings Josse
Feb 15, 2013, 09:44 AM
blutoh's Avatar

Just found these transceivers, and this one. Very interesting, not sure about the quality. If they follow true OpenLRS, they should handle serial communitions as well.


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