Hello. OpenROV Mechatronics Engineering Intern + Trident's External Payload



Just wanted to introduce myself to you guys. My name is Rey and I will be working at OpenROV until the end of this year. I am a Mechatronics Engineering student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and originally from Indonesia. I am actually taking a year off of school because I think what we do here at OpenROV is very interesting, and would be a great experience for me. I truly believe the vision of OpenROV - from underwater exploration to the magic school bus (if you know what I’m talking about) - and just love the fact that the team here is really passionate of what they do. So for me, it was a really easy and simple decision to take a year off of school and join OpenROV. I am relatively a simple guy. Other than work, I read books, play guitar, and sing.

I am currently working on the external payload for the Trident. The idea is to develop a generic payload for the Trident so that we can add sensors, lights, etc. to the Trident and the payload should be controllable using WiFi. This is an interesting concept because as some people might already knew, WiFi signal does not travel far underwater. However, after doing some preliminary test, we found that WiFi signal can travel for a very short distance underwater (about 2-3 inches). The reception should be even better when the surface that holds WiFi module and Trident are touching. So, if we attach this external payload at the bottom of Trident, we should be able to make them communicate with each other. Right now the candidates for the WiFi module that will be used are ESP8266 and Particle P1 (similar to Particle Photon that is based on P0).

There are three main parts of this project: software (and firmware), electronics, and mechanical.

What I have so far:

Software + Firmware:

  • Cockpit plugin: I’ve created a cockpit plugin to control external lights with WiFi.
  • Firmware for the ESP8266 (both Arduino and NodeMCU firmware)/Particle Photon to control the external lights


  • Generic prototyping board based on Particle P1 is being printed, should arrive here by the end of this week, or early next week


  • Just 3D printed a housing for the electronics that can be attached to the bottom of the Trident.

Other than this project, I am also interested in computer vision stuffs, as I spent 8 months at Flex (formerly Flextronics) working on image processing algorithm and optics for automotive.

I am very excited to hear any ideas/inputs on this project, especially on how to make this accessible to the user. I really want to make this easy to develop with, so that the user can add whatever they want to add to this payload easily.

I am so excited to be part of this community and would love to know more people in this community, so please feel free to stop by and say hello!


Payload Interface: Mechanical (Trident Kickstarter Update #10)
Trident - Sensors?
Trident onboard Wifi Interface
Trident payload standardized battery module

Greetings Rey,

Very exciting. I have been anxiously awaiting the Trident and this capability since last November. I’ve been pushing, albeit slowly, for modular science payloads and I think the Trident’s modular payload plan is a good start. What I need is the ins and outs of the plug-n-play architecture so that I can modify a CTD I had designed last year for testing with the Trident and eventual community release of the design and specifications. I think it valuable to develop high fidelity, compacted sensor suites for the community. I’ll repost some of my old stuff as well as some new ideas I’ve hatched over the last few months to see if any of it gets some traction. I hope to invite your enthusiasm and collaboration in bringing some of it across the line.

Welcome and I hope that your time at OpenROV is fantastic.



Hi Jim,

Thanks for stopping by this thread. Sounds great. I look forward to it!

Thanks, Jim. So far it’s been fantastic :slight_smile:



Just an update on Trident’s external payload:

  • Boards and all the components have arrived, electronics for external payload was tested, and worked as expected (programmable, WiFi connectivity, can be powered with 14V power source/micro USB, changing modes, etc.)

  • Created cockpit plugin for wifi lasers

  • The enclosure has been sealed. Will test the whole system with an actual ROV as soon as possible.

I am currently looking into how to flash this board over the air (wireless) without having to have an internet connection. I think it will be awesome if we can do this.

Again, any feedbacks will be very much appreciated :slight_smile:




Currently working on different WiFi chip: ESP8266-12E


  • Compatible with Arduino IDE
  • Can be flashed over the air (using Arduino IDE, we just need to make sure that our laptop and ESP8266 board are connected to the same network, that will be Trident access point). The users can even change and upload their code while flying Trident.


  • Less powerful compared to P1 (less GPIOs, ADC, etc.)

Here is layout of the prototype board (units are in mm):

You can see that the users will have access to those pinouts. It will be programmable via microUSB (UART) or over the air. Note that VBAT IN and VBAT OUT are 14V (this is useful for things like external lights). On the board itself, you will have access to several GPIOs, ADC, 14V out, 5V out (3A max), and 3.3V out (1A max)

Note that this is just a prototype board, there might be some changes in the final design.

How it works:

  • This module will connect to the wifi access point that is running on the Trident, so that they can communicate with each other wirelessly via local connection
  • To communicate with the wifi module, we can use TCP/IP,GET/POST, etc., whatever that ESP8266 supports.
  • On the browser side, the user should create a cockpit plugin (using nodejs/javascript), depending on what you want to do with it. For example, if we want to add and control external lights using this external payload module, we can then create a cockpit plugin that will send GET/POST request (or whatever you are convenient with) to the ESP8266 whenever the user press a certain button.
  • On the ESP8266 side, we can just code it like: “if ESP8266 receive X command/request, turn on/off external lights, then respond back to Trident”

I am interested to hear what people are planning to use this external payload module for. So please feel free to post them here!



Yup, Just the thread i am looking for. :slight_smile:

I have a trident on pre order for November, and an external payload capability is on the list of must haves for me. I support Marine Science teaching here at Murdoch University and we are looking at integrating ROV’s into our teaching and research work. We do have a group here from our Engineering and IT school that are eagerly awaiting its arrival as they have a number of students starting to work on payloads / sensors / apps for UAV’s and like the idea of ROV stuff as well.

First off we hope to trial commercial off the shelf gear like Dual Mount GoPro to do bottom surveys, and one of the academics here is already talking about mounting external lasers for range / size info. Seems to me that being able to wifi data from an external package is something that could be remarkably useful. Will follow this with interest, and pass it on to some people here with relevant skills that i dont have. I’m more your archetypal end user. :frowning:


Hi Rey,

Excellent and speedy work!

I’ve built quadcopters before, but the Trident would be my first underwater ROV. The idea of adding external WiFi payloads sounds exciting, but I honestly lack technical knowledge to contribute.

My main goals are to search a reservoir and a 53K sqm area in the ocean, so I might need external lights and possibly also a grabber that I can attach after the item is finally found.

I’m happy the Trident is nearly ready to dive out of the box (that’s one of the main reasons for my purchase), but I’m not sure how I’d go about the modules.

I’m guessing I’ll have to purchase completed 3rd party modules or a generic module like yours and learn the basics on how to program it to get it to operate a grabber?

Trident Questions

@keenmetal Thanks!

That sounds like a great mission! Can’t wait to see what you will explore with Trident :slight_smile:

I think it would be ideal if you learn how to program it as every user has specific use cases. For something more common like external lights or lasers, I think I would provide all the codes both on the cockpit plugin and wifi external payload sides.

Don’t feel intimidated though, if we finally decided to use ESP8266, you would be able to program it using Arduino IDE, which is relatively easier to learn :slight_smile: I would also provide some tutorials on how to program it



@i.mckernan, really interesting. I would love to see what the students are working on!


Hi rey. In terms of what we do.

At the moment we are hoping to get get the Trident we pre ordered in Nov / Dec this year and then learn to drive it as it comes out of the box.

First project with students will be a “comparison of methods” on a local field camp in Feb 2017 where they do a survey of a seagrass area by hand (tapes, quadrats, handheld cameras), and then do the same area by ROV (with a simple, down facing GoPro). Then they write up results and look at the pro’s and con’s of both methods. Its a good way to get them, as users, to start thinking about how to collect data and that leads to thinking about what else that can do with ROV’s depending on specific projects.

Since its an ROV, we can actually let the students drive it. There is a lot of interest in UAV’s here as well, but we run into legal and regulatory issues as they fly and have the potential to crash into members of the public, so we have to have people qualified to fly them that cuts out undergrads out of much of the hands-on involvement in data collection. :slight_smile:

Also, a lot of the people who our students will be looking for employment with after graduation (consultants, Govt Departments who do monitoring and scientific work) are moving towards using ROV’s for the “grunt” type survey work they need done as there are far less Occupational Health and Safety issues than with having divers in the water, and productivity benefits. We think you can get more transects done in a day with ROV’s than with divers.

Upshot is that we can use affordable ROV’s like Trident, with simple payloads like a GoPro to update our teaching units and give the students some practical “job ready” training with an emerging tech.

We are also hoping to use ROV’s in some of our interactions with local High Schools where we do “look at us, we are great and you want to enrol here for Uni” type recruitment activities. :slight_smile:

There is a lot of interest from researchers. Monitoring Seagrass rehab projects, Artificial Reef deployment and evolution, Fish population studies, Coral Reef survey and monitoring (especially in areas with lots of tourist pressure).

To some extent at the moment its a “build it and they will come” thing for us, but we see a lot of potential. We will know more once we have had a Trident for a little while and assessed how robust, reliable, and “Honours Student Proof” they are as against ongoing cost of ownership.

In terms of the more technical, hardware aspects that seem to be you focus, I have passed on a link to this thread to the academic in know in Engineering and IT here. He’s the one pulling together the group that is interested in payloads, sensors, programming, apps, and i am hoping he will take an interest in what you are doing with the WiFi stuff. The beauty of the open source community thing is that everybody can leverage off everyone else’s contributions to some extent and progress their own projects better and faster that way.

If you are interested, have a look at these two links. They will give you a look at the kind of environments we will be looking to use ROV’s in and the sorts of things we have had the students do to date. The second link is probably more relevant to the UAV stuff Lars does, but we’ll see where they go.






From my experience, underwater ROV is much more easier to control compared to aerial drones, especially with Trident. You’ll see when you get yours :wink:

Wow that is really awesome project. I checked out the links that you gave me, and it seems like a really great program! I totally agree with you. I think underwater ROV is an emerging tech that would open up new possibilities other than the fact that it offers less safety risks (also faster and cheaper). I can’t imagine of how many people will become citizen scientists and gather underwater data to accelerate research in underwater. Underwater research is definitely one of the fields that would benefit from this technology, and it would also be very cool to see what other people will use this ROV for!

It would also be very interesting to see how this technology will inspire young minds to become marine scientists (or ROV engineer :slight_smile: ) Especially with open source community, as you mentioned, everybody can contribute and see how a technology was developed.

Thanks for passing along this thread! I would really love to hear what your colleagues think about this project! And hey, I would also be interested to see the outcome of your projects with your students when you get your Trident. So please keep me updated!



Rey, great information, thank you very much.


Rey, are you still working this project? I’d like to get a run down and start on a few designs/sensors I have in mind.




Hey @Jim_N

Yes I am still working on it! The design is 90% done, i’m now doing a lot of testing and prototyping, so it’s been moving kind of slowly (3D printing and sending the board to fab take quite some time).


Picture above: The orange object is going to be the expansion board (just like regular prototyping board where you can solder stuffs), which is connected to the main board with the WiFi module that is located just above it (see pictures below). The top and bottom part will be closed with acrylic pieces, and I will make a waterproof wire/cable penetrator, so that we can run wires from the bottom acrylic piece (also see pictures below), all you need is just drill holes on the acrylic piece and put the penetrator in that hole.

The board will be powered by 3x 18650s Lithium Ion batteries. Max discharge current will be about 5A to 7A. You will have access to Vbat, 5V, and 3V3 out. Since this model is using ESP8266, you will have 12 GPIOs,1 ADC, PWM, I2C, SPI and there is going to be a physical switch to turn the system on/off.

Let me know if it is confusing!



Hi @rey_reza

Looks like you’ve done a great job so far. A wireless payload is going to be pretty awesome.

I’ve got a few questions about your prototyping and development.

  • what type of 3D printing and material are you using and are you expecting to use this in the water? I have used vapour treated ABS for an external light housing and found it to be waterproof. Tested to 40m.
  • what glue are you using to join the 3D printed parts?
  • what software do you use for the pcb design. Does that same software produce the 3D model of the PCB?



Hi @william_alexander Thanks!

to answer your questions:

  • I use PLA for prototyping at 100% infill
  • Epoxy to join the 3D printed parts
  • I used to use Eagle but now I use Altium. Altium does not produce the 3D model, how it works is that we, the users, create the 3D model of each component, and Altium will just generate the 3D model of the board based on that.

Hope this helps!



Thanks. That’s encouraging news. How about fab? CAD models? Any chance I can get my hands on the print files? I’m looking to get a full CTD and pH sensor going by Jan/Feb of next year.




Hi Jim,

For prototyping, I think it would be best if you can get ESP8266 eval board like this one:



Thanks Rey, I ordered 4 lol.


Rey, I received the modules. I’ll let you know results as soon as I rebuild the kits. I’ll be pinging you cats about comms shortly.