About the Project


The idea of building was developped by master students of geography and geoarcheology (us in the following text) of Philipps-University Marburg. It arose while discussing possibilities to survey river environment with UAVs. The question weather to start an UAV project with common methods or to try a more practical approach, which implies a self-guided course structure wasn´t hard to answer and the Sonar Boat Project was born.


Fig. 1: Mr. Turtle: A remotely controlled floating platform, equipped with sonar, lidar and temperature sensor.

The Project has many aims in several fields (technical, scientific, educational, social):


  • Connect environmental informatics and Robotics: Applied Informatics
  • Working Open source and solely with software for which we don´t need any extra purchases
  • scientific:
  • Finding a way to survey river plus surrounding remotely at once
  • Offer an alternative to flying drones, which have problems to survey rivers because of overgrowing and dense vegetation
  • Rise attention of the state of waterbodies next to your place
  • educational:
  • Learning by Doing
  • Involving individual interests
  • Solution orientated working
  • Manage working in groups
  • social:
  • low-cost learning possibility for young scientists and everyone else
  • Facilitate citizens the access to science: The website shall represent an instruction for you to imitate the project and to be creative in extending it. So don´t wait, get started!
  • Most of those aims could be achieved. Read more about the failures and successes in Platform Development or in the following paragraph.

    Result & Resume

    This way we ended up building Mr. Turtle, a survey platform with a modular setup, which can be adjusted very easy to anyone´s intrest. You can steer it manually and let it drive in automatic mode. It is equipped with a Lidar, Sonar, RasPi, water temperature sensor, camera and a GoPro Camera. The proculation system is strong enough to handel river currents of 7km/h. So its suitable for calm rivers and lakes but not for the sea or any white water.

    On the way to get there, we had to solve technical problems, we never came in contact with before. We could apply the programming tasks, which we learned during master studies. Except for the Sonar, which works exclusively with the appropriate App, we didn´t use extra devices to store data. On the one hand the applied way of education increased interest of participants. On the other hand it made it more difficult to split tasks reasonably. Lidar, Pixhawk, Sonar and mobile phone included, the total costs lie between 400€ and 700€, so we kept costs low.


    We are very happy if this instruction of "How to build a sonar platform" is used by anyone. As you can equip Mr. Turtle with any other function, using it as a sampler (e.g. Plastics) could be an appropriate task. It could also be seen as a suggesstion for school projects in environmental sciences. Mr. Turtle is determined to play a role in environmental education or to just be a game for technicians. Feedback, Questions or suggestions for improvement are very welcome, so feel free to contact us!