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Compass vs Gyro for a simple autohelm
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Re: Compass vs Gyro for a simple autohelm

by sirket on Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:21 pm

rainymaker wrote:Hi - I'm working on a simple arduino based auto pilot for my 31' sailboat. All the device needs to do is HOLD a course. I'd primarily use it when motoring so that I could have it hold my present course while I get a fresh beer, etc.

The device does not need display the course or do any interfacing with my other marine electronics. It just needs to keep the boat pointed in the same direction I left it.

I've been looking a various compass modules that seem like they'd do the trick, but I was wondering if a gyro module would also work. I only need 5-10 degrees of precision.

Can anyone offer any insight into whether a gyro may be a suitable choice for such a project?

Thanks tons!!!!!!


Do you have all the other components that go into making a stable autopilot- the control servos, power regulation, batteries, etc.? Are you going to be able to weather proof this thing so it won't get wet and catch fire?

If you're only leaving the deck to get a beer- then your steering lock should be sufficient. If you're leaving for more than a minute then you are going to need something smarter than just a heading device- if the wind shifts you can accidentally jibe and break the boom or rigging, you can head up too far and wind up in irons, etc.

A simple wind vane autopilot tracks the wind and draws no power so it might be a good choice for you. You have no fire hazzard, no batteries to run down, and it's simpler to fix.

If you are hell bent on building your own system, please please be careful- fires at sea and all that. You may also want to tie into your boats NMEA bus and get the heading and position information from there- no sense adding more components if you can use what you already have.

Now I have to ask- what make of boat and what's her name?
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.