Underwater exploration on the cheap

September 21, 2015 //By Julien Happich
Underwater exploration on the cheap
Having reached well over ten times its initial USD 50,000 crowd funding goal on kickstarter and not even half-way through its campaign, Californian startup OpenROV is re-iterating its successful launch of a tethered underwater drone for ocean exploration on the cheap.

Back in 2012, the company had offered to provide an open source underwater robot, dubbed OpenROV. With the feedback and fruitful exchanges gathered from the OpenExplorer community of early adopters, the startup is now back with a more compact and improved version, the OpenROV Trident (8cm thick, 20cm wide and 40cm long versus a bulkier and less hydrodynamic primary implementation).

Retailing for USD 1,199 when finally in production next year, this consumer-friendly version is capable of diving down to 100m (as long as you have the tether on reel), cruising along the shores at speeds up to 2m/s to explore any underwater sceneries while feeding a live HD video stream to the remote pilot. The tether connects the drone to a surface towable buoy which relays the data via long-range WiFi to the pilot (hence, expanding the exploration range well beyond the tether's length).

The OpenROV has been key to developing a comprehensive software package (an on-going open-source project at https://github.com/openrov/openrov-software), with shared software plugins, UI themes to change the look and feel of the piloting deck, and a depth and heading hold.

While most use cases may be geared towards boat owners (anchorage or hull inspection) or recreational use (flying over the seabed to discover the local fauna), the underwater drone has also found some interesting mapping applications. The OpenROV Trident can be programmed to hover in lawn mower patterns over large areas, effectively taking thousands of overlapping pictures that can then be used, with photogrammetry software, to create a 3D model of the seafloor.

A 3D model plane wing wreck on the seafloor (source OpenROV).

 

Check out the Kickstarter campaign

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