OpenROV could open up the world of underwater exploration


June 6, 2012

OpenROV is an underwater remote-operated vehicle that will be available in a kit or fully-assembled, for use by anyone with an interest in exploring the deep

OpenROV is an underwater remote-operated vehicle that will be available in a kit or fully-assembled, for use by anyone with an interest in exploring the deep

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Underwater remote-operated vehicles, or ROVs, are almost impossibly fascinating. They’re controlled by a surface-based operator, who watches their real-time video feed and pilots them via a long umbilical cable. Although the big-league multi-million-dollar ROVs are used for things such as exploring the wreck of the Titanic or studying hydrothermal vents, hobbyists have quite a bit of fun using their own home-built versions just to see what’s under the surface of the local lake. Unfortunately, even to build one yourself, you need to be pretty technically skilled. That could change, however, as the OpenROV project is developing “easy to assemble” kits – it may even provide li’l ROVs that are ready to go, right out of the box.

OpenROV is the creation of NASA engineer Eric Stackpole. Its design is open-source, and is also intended to “open” the world of underwater exploration up to people who would otherwise never be able to access it ... hence the name.

In its present form, the neutrally-buoyant sub can descend a maximum of 100 meters (328 feet). It’s controlled via a web browser on the user’s laptop, which is tethered to a Linux computer on the ROV. It measures just 30 x 20 x 15 centimeters (11.8 x 7.8 x 5.9 inches), weighs 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lbs), and runs on eight C-cell batteries. A central sealed clear acrylic tube houses its web camera, LED headlamps, and other electronics that need to be kept dry. That tube can rotate in order to tilt the camera/lights up and down, and is easily removable for servicing.

Propulsion is provided by three brushless electric motors. These spin two horizontal thrusters – which allow the ROV to move forward, backward, and to rotate – along with a vertical thruster used to change depth.

Already, there is an active community of hobbyists building OpenROVs from scratch. The kit, however, will contain all of the electronics and laser-cut acrylic parts necessary for the less-techy to put one together themselves within a weekend. That kit should reportedly be ready to ship within a few months, at a price of US$750. Stackpole is currently inviting prospective customers to leave him their contact information, so he can let them know when they’re ready.

There’s no word yet on how much a fully-assembled sub will go for.

Source: OpenROV via New York Times

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Great piece of equipment for a lobster fisherman -- checking the bottom before setting gear and also used for locating lost pots. I'll take one.

Richard Dicky Riddlebarger

Stripping underwater wrecks for resale has become a big business despite state and federal laws against it. This product, along with hi def sonars will make it nigh on impossible to preserve old wrecks in situ for future generations of divers to enjoy. But what the hell, we're destroying the above water environment for short term gain so why not sunken wrecks as well.

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