Electric Steering for Outboard Motor..Help

Hello all, new to the forums and really not sure how I came about them. But after glancing at a few of threads I realize all of you are a lot smarter than myself and some of you would be able to help me with a ideal I've had for a while but don't really have the know how to to make it work safely. Or tell me that it sounds good on paper but a lot of bad things sound good on paper.

A little background and the why of wanting to electrically control my outboard motor with a small gaming flight control stick. This will be for personal use on my own boat.
I convert small aluminum boats (12'-14') Deep V boats/skiffs in "mini" bass boats. One the biggest things I have to watch for while building a boat is weight. Whatever I add to it must be as strong as possible, yet as light as possible. So whenever I can build a something that is not the "normal" why it would be done in a bigger boat, but is lighter in weight and still functions as just as well, it's a win. So if I can control the steering with a joystick and electric actuators, I would be able to loss about 40-50 lbs (est) in weight by removing the console, steering wheel, cables and pulleys. Plus space is at a perimun in theses small boats and removing a steering console would free up a lot of space.

Here is my "ideal" on how to make this happen.. Using a computer gaming Flight Control joystick mounted on the side of hull to control both the steering and throttle by wire. Which would send the control input to 2 small electric actuators for steering and a small R/C servo for throttle control. The buttons on the joystick would be used for shifting into D-N-R gears and using a R/C servo.

So my question is... Does this seem possible, while being both safe and cost effective..??

Comments

  • It's possible, and can be safe if there is a way to steer and control the throttle manually when the electronic system fails. Note that I am saying "when" NOT "if". As for being cost effective, that depends on what you consider cost effective.
  • Steering would have to be done with linear actuators. Servos just don't have the power unless geared. the weight of the motor comes into play. Some resources:

    https://www.firgelliauto.com/collections/linear-actuators

    https://www.servocity.com/servos/servo-gearboxes

    https://www.servocity.com/motors-actuators
  • Certainly it can be done, has been done and there are commercially available solutions. Just look at autopilots. There are the tiller types and wheel types. Both have a way of either being disconnected quickly or otherwise disengaged so that manual control is possible when there is an electronic failure. Even so, they have failed resulting in damage and/or injury.

    For anything other than trolling I would not be comfortable with a diy system - unless built to a professional level (more time and expense than buying a commercial system). The possible consequences of loss of control are too great.

    One way to save a lot of room and some weight is to use a stick steer instead of a wheel.

    20026-6567351.jpg
  • A lot depends on the outboard size. A 12ft boat is unlikely to have a large outboard with electric start, meaning no battery. On my catamaran, steering is hydraulic. We have a 120AH motor battery and a house bank of 420AH. The autopilot controls an octopus hydraulic pump into a ram. Its reasonably heavy on the power but thats ok since we can regenerate the usage. Alsothe max speed we have ever achieved is 20 kts but usually 13 kts is the max. Small boats can get to 40 kts with the right outboards so you wouldnt want a failure at that speedor it would not end nicely.
  • Whatever you use the response of the actuator has to be fast enough. Hydraulic servo would be the best. But the expense could get pricey, not to mention the need for a hydraulic pump and tank. If you use a linear acuator the extened and retract times must be quick for a good response.
    And you have to think about a waterproof joystick and electronics. Boating stuff is subject to a lot of corrsion especially in saltwater.
  • msrobotsmsrobots Posts: 3,101
    edited 2020-02-16 - 02:04:28
    Welcome to the forum @icuOklaCity,

    Ok guy's do not be so negative, be positive.

    Any failure or RED power off button and power off says boat off. Can happen with any boat.

    We all can agree that a Servo can handle the throttle, power/pwm off throttle goes to zero pulled by a spring. No danger of failure, if it stops, it stops. But can still be manually used, the servo does not resist without power.

    For steering I do also have some at least overridable Idea. the boat is small, in an emergency the OP might be able to jump back and steer manually.

    So when system down one needs to steer manually at the motor.

    How about that. Some horizontal ring around the engines turning point, does not need to be a full ring just 180 degrees, and a Parallax Motor,Mount and Wheel-Kit, with them pneumatic tires.

    One of the motors/Tires mounted horizontal next to the engine, 'driving' on that ring in one direction turns the engine right, the other way left. Maybe the wheel assembly needs to be pressed with a spring against the ring because of Engine movement. A quick release for the spring and you can steer and drive as usual.

    Now we are down to some springs, a servo, a motor mount and wheel kit and have a second motor and wheel left.

    That could be used for shifting, no Idea yet.

    On the software side we are basically back to servos, so the OP could even attach some Model Aircraft RC-Receiver and run his boat from the beach.

    Enjoy!

    Mike
  • What about a joystick from a used electric wheelchair?

    Some of them have other functions that might come in handy, like a voltage display for your battery and other buttons that can be used for electric start, stop and your horn if you have one. The older, less "smart" the chair's joystick is the easier it will be to connect.



  • Cluso99Cluso99 Posts: 15,842
    edited 2020-02-16 - 05:06:32
    The idea was to do away with the manual steering and save its weight.

    I can tell you if you have a small outboard boat, then at speed ehich can be up to 40 kts, you would not want to lose steering - the worst time would be while doing a tight turn - and a loss of steering could be disastrous !!!

    If speed is limited to say 10 kts it may not be a disaster. We don’t know the circumstances here so best to point out known pitfalls.
  • kwinnkwinn Posts: 8,511
    edited 2020-02-16 - 17:39:23
    So far we have some good general suggestions and valid safety cautions from various forum members but have not heard back from icuOklaCity. I would certainly like to know a little bit more about what the boat will be used for, what type of engine (outboard, inboard, stern drive) and the horsepower before making any specific hardware suggestions.
  • kwinn wrote: »
    ... I would certainly like to know a little bit more about what the boat will be used for, what type of engine (outboard, inboard, stern drive) and the horsepower before making any specific hardware suggestions.

    He stated:
    "I convert small aluminum boats (12'-14') Deep V boats/skiffs in "mini" bass boats."
    To me that means an outboard.

    It will have enough power to plane, which can be less than 5 hp up to about 40. A sudden loss of control at any planing speed can be dangerous.

    If the boat is planing and there is a problem that results in a sudden steering change there will not be time to intervene manually before an accident can happen. A partial solution would be to use hardware that cannot move without power - that would eliminate the sudden yaw of the outboard which can overturn the boat, but then that same feature would make it harder to regain control.

    I don't believe that a safe, reliable steer-by-wire system can be made for a small boat that would end up lighter than using a stick steer. Even commercial electronic steering systems made for similar type boats are not intended to be used while planing.

    It would be a nice feature to have a joystick to steer while trolling, but electronic steering at planing speeds is a bad idea IMO.




  • W9GFO wrote: »
    kwinn wrote: »
    ... I would certainly like to know a little bit more about what the boat will be used for, what type of engine (outboard, inboard, stern drive) and the horsepower before making any specific hardware suggestions.

    He stated:
    "I convert small aluminum boats (12'-14') Deep V boats/skiffs in "mini" bass boats."
    To me that means an outboard.

    It will have enough power to plane, which can be less than 5 hp up to about 40. A sudden loss of control at any planing speed can be dangerous.

    If the boat is planing and there is a problem that results in a sudden steering change there will not be time to intervene manually before an accident can happen. A partial solution would be to use hardware that cannot move without power - that would eliminate the sudden yaw of the outboard which can overturn the boat, but then that same feature would make it harder to regain control.

    I don't believe that a safe, reliable steer-by-wire system can be made for a small boat that would end up lighter than using a stick steer. Even commercial electronic steering systems made for similar type boats are not intended to be used while planing.

    It would be a nice feature to have a joystick to steer while trolling, but electronic steering at planing speeds is a bad idea IMO.

    I agree. By the time safety mechanisms were added there would be very little gain in space or weight.
  • xanaduxanadu Posts: 3,299
    edited 2020-02-17 - 00:55:46
    The title of this post includes the word outboard. The first paragraph mentions how to do it safely, I'd assume OP isn't suicidal.

    Start out small. Simple 2 axis joystick, microntroller and servo. Get that working and a lot of your questions will be answered. You don't have to start with a full size boat, a complex PC joystick, or an outboard motor. As mentioned, things will go wrong, it's much better for things to go wrong in a controlled environment, such as your workbench.
  • One thing not yet seen here, is how is the boat steered now? Stick with throttle poking out of the assembly (little boat) at the back bench or by steering wheel up forward via pulleys and wires or what ever he currently has. Is the OPs desire to do this while trolling or transit or both? Lots of ideas and solutions to minimally defined "problem". OP, any pics or current systems to start from?
  • Scratching my head wondering how I missed the "outboard" part of the posting title. Old age perhaps?
    One thing not yet seen here, is how is the boat steered now? Stick with throttle poking out of the assembly (little boat) at the back bench or by steering wheel up forward via pulleys and wires or what ever he currently has. Is the OPs desire to do this while trolling or transit or both? Lots of ideas and solutions to minimally defined "problem". OP, any pics or current systems to start from?

    Based on the OP's original post where he says:
    So if I can control the steering with a joystick and electric actuators, I would be able to loss about 40-50 lbs (est) in weight by removing the console, steering wheel, cables and pulleys.

    It seems that he is trying to replace all of the above with the gaming flight controller. I think this can be done safely by setting up the throttle control mechanism range of motion so that the electronics can not open the throttle beyond a certain point.
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