Our Boat Design

Main Sail & Tail Sail

Our sail and tail sail designs are different than a normal sailboat in that they are rigid airfoils. We make our sails out of balsa wood and cover them in monokote. The skeleton of the sail is made from aluminum rods, and provides a frame for the sail as well as connecting the sail to the tail.

Deck & Hull

The deck and hull are made of carbon fiber and are designed to be extremely aero- and hydrodynamic. The deck contains the hatches, which are a system designed to be easily removable while remaining completely waterproof.

LiDAR Sensor

The LiDAR sensor uses a concentrated beam of light to detect objects up to 100 meters away. Using motors, we can move the sensor rapidly to create a 3D “map” of the boat's surroundings. This is used for obstacle avoidance.

App Feature Image
Sailing Algorithm

Our sailing algorithm is what makes our boat autonomous. The basic goal of the algorithm is to sail the boat between a series of waypoints. In order to accomplish this, the boat must be able to sail upwind and downwind, recognize when it has hit a waypoint, tack, and jibe.


The ballast is the bulb at the bottom of the keel. It lowers the boat’s center of gravity. When wind causes the boat to tilt, the ballast provides a righting moment to bring the sailboat back to the vertical position.

Printed Circuit Board

We design our own PCB every year. The PCB is the heart of the electrical components of the boat. Our PCB connects to 2 servo motors, the LiDar sensor, the IMU, the GPS and XBEE, and the wind vane.

Our Fleet

SailVane 4


Coming soon!

SailVane 3, "Fiona"


SailVane 3 doubled in size to 2 meters. This created new problems on its own such as boat storage, transporting the boat, and taking the boat in and out of the water. The deck rises higher above the water to act as a prow and prevent nose dives while the hull is over twice as thin as the previous iteration to increase aero- and hydrodynamics.

SailVane 2


SailVane 2 was the product of CUSail's first year as a project team. For the first time, the deck, hull, and keel were made completely from carbon fiber opposed to fiber glass in order to decrease weight yet increase strength. A new system of rubber-mold and acrylic-channel hatches were implemented to both increase waterproofing reliability and ease taking in and out the electronics boxes from inside the boat. For the first time, a pixy cam was fixed to the front of the deck to give our boat vision and allow us to detect buoys and avoid other sailboats.

SailVane 1


SailVane 1 was the first boat created by CUSail. This sailboat successfully implemented Professor Ruina's idea to eliminate the need for a rudder by adding a second 'tail' sail. Using a combination of sensors, such as GPS, inertial measurement unit, and a magnetic rotary sensors, and a short term navigation algorithm, SailVane 1 was able to take its maiden voyage. A microcontroller allows for communication between the sensor array, the navigation algorithm, and the control system which communicates to servo motors that rotate the sail and tail to appropriate angles.