I leaned over the the side of our boat and peered down through 20 meters of crystal clear water to see the Aquarius Reef Base, NOAA’s undersea lab nestled among the deep coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The scene was bustling with activity: divers working at various depths, support boats, and a complex network of machines and hardware that make it possible for human beings to live in the sea for weeks at a time. And I still couldn’t get over how clear the water was.
One of the experienced NEEMO crew, someone who’d been with the project for years, walked over and told me it was the best diving conditions he had ever seen during the mission.
The cameramen on board, those tasked with documenting this national treasure of science and exploration, were visibly shaking with excitement. They had been diving and filming on the base for a few days now, but this was the opportunity they had been dreaming about. And after a successful shakedown of the OpenROV hardware the day before, we couldn’t have felt luckier to be along for the ride.
We had a number of objectives for the day. We wanted to continue to evaluate the ROV’s performance in the harsh salt water conditions, continue to test the depth limits, as well as document the entire process. We also wanted to continue with our experiments using 123D Catch to create 3D models from the underwater imagery we were capturing. Needless to say, our plans and goals were ambitious.
We couldn’t be happier with the results. The quick report is that the brushless motors continued to work beautifully in salt water, the ROV had no problems handling the depth, and the imagery it was able to collect with a mounted GoPro camera (with the new dive housing) was stunning. We’ll be posting more videos and photos soon.
OpenROV has a payload bay and easy-to-modify design that allow devices such as cameras and sensor packages to be added.
Of course, more development and testing is needed. We did this entire dive without a live video stream from the ROV and we are still putting the finishing touches on the design for a Beaglebone Cape that will allow us to cleanly couple the onboard computer with the other ROV electronics needed for operation. But that’s where you come in.
Next week, we’ll be launching the Kickstarter project and getting kits out to the community. We’re getting really excited to welcome so many new co-developers to the OpenROV adventure!
Special thanks to all the amazing collaborators: NASA’s OpenGov team (Nick Skytland & Chris Gerty, GeekDad’s Brian McLaughlin, Autodesk, GoPro, and Light in Motion. Also, thank you to the entire NEEMO16 crew for their warm hospitality.
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