Advice for a someone with a sparked interest


Hi, I found this forum and the story of OpenROV while looking up underwater robotics, which has sparked my interest as a budding oceanographer. How should I go about starting to learn about how underwater robotics works and how to start building my own DIY projects? I have no background in engineering or programming, but am extremely interested and willing to learn.
Thank you for your time,


Hey B,

welcome to OpenROV. I think you have come to the right place. This platform is a great way to start exploring the oceans with little experience! I have the following ideas:

Firstly, building your own ROV is an exciting adventure that I would truly recommend! You do not require any particular DIY experience but you still have a lot freedom for your own ideas. Have a look at the building guides for an idea how the built works. The explanations are very easy to understand and if you face some issues we are here to help. Building the ROV will guide you step by step to your own ocean exploration and you will learn a lot! However, this obviously comes with a bit of initial investment.

Secondly, you may try to contact local explorers to get a feel for the project and its opportunities. Share your location and maybe someone can take you to a dive. Also have a look at OpenExplorer which collects a lot of the current dive projects. Maybe someone is close to your area.

If you have more questions, feel free to share them!


Hi B,

You’ve definitely come to the right place for guidance and assistance. Most of us have a lot of DIY experience and design some of our own underwater units.

Here are my recommendations on where to start for reference material:
The ROV Manual, Second Edition
Underwater Robotics : Science, Design and Fabrication

Next, as @Fe3C said, review the OpenROV build instructions and once you feel comfortable, get one of the 2.8 kits. They are really easy to build now compared to the older 2.5/2.6 and even 2.7. No programming required.

Once you get a hankering to really go DIY and build things on your own, here are my recommendations:

  1. Identify your requirements and build to those. Example: If you don’t need to go really deep, don’t design that way. There is an exponential curve for cost of components and depth. 30m is pretty easy. 100m is where the community is focused right now. It’s a good price point and it’s much deeper than SCUBA will get you. 200m is where we are going. 300m is still off on a mythological realm and pretty much relegated to commercial vehicles for right now.
  2. Do your homework on hardware and components. This is what I spend the majority of my time doing. Getting components rated for at least 100m aren’t cheap, but for this venture, you get what you pay for.
  3. Don’t build yourself into a corner with no opportunity for upgrades. New components are going to be coming out years down the road, allow yourself the flexibility to upgrade things and go deeper or add tooling if you need it.

Hope that’s a decent start, let us know what you need and we can get you going in the right direction.


Thank you so much for the recommendations @Kevin_K and @Fe3C ! I’m currently a college student on a meager budget, so I was wondering what would be my cheapest bet at the moment to start building. Is there a way in which I could start gathering components individually and then putting them together? Personally, I have been thinking of starting an oceanography interest group/club and having one of the long term goals be getting an underwater robot project started (also it would be easier to get funding for a kit that way). I might try to go and find some of those manuals at a library if possible, but are there also any other online sites with PDF’s or files I can look at for free in regards to DIY underwater robotics? I figured if I can’t afford a kit yet, I could at least start learning about the components and how the mechanisms actually work.

Thanks again,


Individual components are available in the ROV store. There is also a lot of documentation on github for the OpenROV, including DXF files for laser cutting, electronics schematics, software and more. There is also a guide on how to put everything together at If you have access to a laser cutter at your college a good low cost place to start would be cutting the acrylic pieces and then slowly adding more components. Bear in mind you might pay a lot more in shipping costs if you build piece by piece and order a few components at a time, it might be cheaper to save up for a kit.


Concur with @Brendan, if you choose to go the OpenROV route, the easiest and cheapest way is to buy a kit all at once.

Now if you want to go really cheap and forgo the expensive electronics, you could always go the “motors on PVC pipe” route. It’s how I started about 15 years ago. I also started with the book Build Your Own Underwater Robot and Other Wet Projects and got about halfway through the SeaPerch.

Another option you have if you want to try and piece something together is try and use the MATE kits. I don’t know anyone who has used them because OpenROV has better functionality, but they are here:

MATE also puts up the Tech reports in PDF files for you to peruse ideas from. Here are the 2015 ones:

I’ve gleaned some hardware ideas from there as well as component sources.


I’ve built some using an electronics such as the Arduino system coupled with an Adafruit motor shield, using general plumbing supplies for the shell. Not a preety beast but hey ho it worked.

Both the electronics and coding are relatively simple and taught on both Arduino site as well as the Adafruit site. Most electronics are cheap and easily available.

And loads of help and troubleshooting can be found on this awesome site!

However if you’ve got the money OpenROV for the win, Really great system which is ready to go after being built


@Teaguey I took a look at Arduino, that’s pretty neat and relatively cheap in comparison to the other options out there. It seems like it would be pretty good to play around with as a beginner? Which Arduino boards would you recommend starting out with?


@Kevin_K I’ll definitely start with the Build Your Own Underwater Robot book, it seems like a good start! Also, thanks for putting up the Tech PDF files. I’m starting to take a look at them in my downtime, and they’re extremely interesting!


Well the arduino uno is cheap as chips and you can get the starter set which will give you components and teach you how to code… i have the Uno starter set and its really good but just playing with the board by its self would be useful to learn, especially if you get a bread board so you can test out different systems.