modify an autohelm to add a wireless remote control
autohelm wireless remote;
control your heading from anywhere on your boat.
by Adrian Biffen
Having installed a wired remote control
extension of my autohelm that allows me to alter course, I was ready to take the next step of adding a hand held wireless controller that would allow me to change my heading from anywhere in the boat (or even from outside of the boat).
My Navico autohelm requires a momentary 'press and hold' action on the course adjustment buttons in order to change course. A brief one second push of the button causes a one degree change, and a longer two or three second push will alter course by ten degrees (to port or starboard, depending on which button you depress).
I initially was looking for an x10 device that allowed for a 'press and hold' action that would continue to provide a control voltage until it was released. I discovered that the Ninja robotic camera mount had just such an action, whereby the pan and tilt controls move the camera mount in the selected direction, until the button is released - perfect for my application.
The camera mount arrived, and I started the process pf modifying this unit to work as a steerage wireless remote control. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a stepper motor system, which uses multiple digital waveforms applied at different phase angles to control the forward and reverse directions of a unipolar stepper motor. It would have required some custom circuitry to adapt it to simple relay control; there wasn't one single point on the circuit board that provided a DC voltage that would control my relays.
I decided it made more sense to keep this unit intact for its intended purpose and buy a separate remote control for this application. I found what I needed in the form of a dedicated robot remote control, and it ultimately proved to be a superior solution. Please see the articles above for a more detailed description.