RC Phantom Boat (UK Opera Theater)

SchmidtCDS was contracted by the University of Kentucky Opera Theater department to develop an RC boat for their upcoming production of Phantom of the Opera. Our requirements for the build were

  1. Capable of carrying 600lbs
  2. Quiet
  3. Safe
While searching for an out-of-the-box solution for this build, I discovered that not many professional level RC platforms exist on a rental/purchase basis. Most of the projects I found revolved around making lawnmowers or giant battle bots remote controllable. So I added an unofficial requirement to the build – It must be generic enough to be used for whatever RC needs future productions might need. At this point, the idea of the Turtle RC Theater Platform was born!
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My input to this project revolved around the electronics, including the motor controller, the motors themselves, and the interface to the RC receiver/transmitter. Bill Gregory over at Enomalies was subcontracted to handle steel and wood work, as well as general construction of the entire thing. Using a steel frame and ultra-quiet casters, the framework for dropping in the motors started to take shape. Bill engineered the frame in a manner that allows anything to be mounted to it (while simultaneously concealing it). This was the crux of our “generic” requirement, as we are now able to swap out the boat for something like a set of stairs, a flat platform, a statue, etc. Pretty much any stage asset can be designed to sit on top of our Turtle Platform and be moved across the stage via RC.
Here’s a video of the frame in action by itself:


The electronics were selected in a manner that allows several different input configurations to be used. While this version of the Turtle is controlled solely through a standard RC Control like this…

…the design leaves open the possibilities of waypoint navigation and network/WiFi control (more generic expandability). The transmitter we’re using features signal loss protection and the Turtle platform has an integrated kill switch that will cut power to the motors in case a disgruntled stage hand gets a hold of the controller 🙂

I’ll leave you guys with a video of the boat shell installed on top of the Turtle. If you’re interested in renting or purchasing your own Turtle RC Frame, drop me a line at mschmidt@schmidtcds.com


UPDATE: We’re changing our offerings a little bit. Instead of fooling with complicated and expensive rentals of the full boat, we’re getting ready to introduce a stand-alone, inexpensive unit that allows you to add RC control to *ANY* of your stage assets. Check out the details on the Turtle Brain Kit and subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

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  1. Nick Opritza


    wondering what it would cost to rent or buy your design of the rc platform we are doing phantom this fall 2013

  2. Paul spencer


    Hi there,
    I’m part of an amateur production of phantom in Australia and wondered if I might be able to speak with you regarding how we might go about accomplishing something similar to the fantastic boat you have created in this video.

    Love to chat about it.

    –Paul Spencer

    • Reply

      Hey Paul, thanks for your interest! I’ll send you a PM with some rental/purchase details. I hope to have our website up soon.

  3. Ia Enstera


    Hi there,
    Would you please let me know what sort of cost we would be looking at if either to rent or buy at Turtle Platform for our production?
    Thank you!

  4. Kevin Gardner


    I am in Glasgow, KY. Our school is doing Phantom this year and I was wondering what your price for purchase and/or rental is .

  5. Melinda Seader


    I am helping with major props for a Fall 2014 high school production of Phantom in Indiana.
    The boat would be needed from approximately July 1- Nov 14.

    Could you give me the following costs:
    1.) rental of a remote controlled boat for period mentioned above.
    2.) cost of detailed plans with which to build a remote control boat.
    3.) cost to purchase a remote control boat.

    I have built the sets & props for the school for the last 6 years, but my children have graduated now and I have “downsized” my involvement to just a few major props. A remote control boat sounds like a lot of fun to build, but not sure what the cost of such an endeavor might be.
    Thank you for any information that you would be willing to provide.

    Melinda S.

  6. Joe


    I tried to e-mail to ask some questions. I have the same questions that Melinda does as well!

    Thanks a bunch!

    • Reply

      Hey Josh,

      The co-designer is on vacation and I don’t have access to the specs, but here are the rough dimensions. Our first model was 30″ x 72″ and 30″, if I recall correctly. We are developing a smaller model that is is 30″ x 42″ x 18″. When I get solid numbers I’ll get back to you.


  7. Nick Cupit


    Am producing Phantom in the UK in September next year and would be interested in any details/info you could provide to assist us with similar fore hire/sale in UK

  8. Pingback: Boats on Stage | Jenny Finnigan

  9. Revel Gholston


    Hello Sir –

    Was just looking for some prices to rent your boat and or anything else you may have pertaining to Phantom of the Opera.

    I emailed you, but was trying these other outlets in order to try and reach you more quickly. Thanks
    Revel Gholston

  10. Revel Gholston


    I would like to know all of the info from previous posts:

    Ex: MELINDA & JOE from the past year.

    Thanks again

  11. Colin


    I am directing high school is doing a production of Phantom and am very interested in this. Any information would be greatly appreciated!

  12. Ben Lindner


    I am wondering what type of steel you used to build the frame and what the dimensions were, and also if it would be possible to build the frame with wood instead.

    • castleseven


      Hey Ben –

      We had the frame build out of 1″ square tubing, probably something like A513. You can absolutely use a wooden frame instead, my R&D model is made out of 2×4’s and plywood that took 30 minutes to throw together. It may change the max weight the frame can handle, but I’d wager the motors would stall before the wooden frame would reach a failure point.

  13. Connie Rose


    I am theatre teacher in a high school and we want to produce PHANTOM next spring. I am fascinated by your boat/platform design. Is it something we could build? Do you have a ‘kit’? Thanks for any guidance/help.

    • castleseven


      Hey Connie!

      We do not offer a kit for the boat anymore, but we do sell the TurtleRC Brain. With the Brain, all you have to do is provide a platform, wheels/motors, and a battery, and the brain takes care of all the remote control stuff. You can check out turtlerc.com or use the links at the very top of the page to send me an email.

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