Admittedly, when I saw the OpenROV, an underwater exploratory robot intended for both professional and personal use, my first thought was the iPhone I lost to an all-day booze fest on Lake Geneva. She was a mere 3 days old. Still suckling the teat of AppleCare. If only I'd been able to find her.... But I think designers Eric Stackpole, David Lang, and Bran Sorem have something a little more globally resonant than lost cell phone retrieval in mind for their OpenROVs' diving expeditions.
The OpenROV is approximately the size of a shoe box, and weighs around 5.5. pounds. It uses three, 800kv brushless motors, plus two horizontal and one vertical thruster, to power itself downward and along the floors of fresh and salt water bodies. Remote-controlling the robot's flight and exploration feels a lot like playing Gran Turismo 5, except under water and at a max speed of 1 m/s, with possible Cthulhu encounters. In other words, the OpenROV interface is hosted as a Webserver, so pilots use computer keyboards to direct its movements, as their screens project its video feed. A USB game controller design is also in the works.
OpenROV's structural design supports water depths of up to 300 feet, though test runs thus far have been limited to depths of around 60 feet. Run time clocks in at around 1 to 1.5 hours with 8, on-board C batteries.
While the OpenROV would be kind of a cool toy to have for treasure hunting and showing the chilluns there's more to this world than concrete jungles and Playstation and zombies, its potential for individual research and discovery in underwater environments serves as the true inspiration for the DIY Ocean Explorers who created it. Stackpole, Lang, and Sorem also hope to collaborate with and expand the scientific community of expeditioners dedicated to traversing the murky depths of our waters.
The OpenROV Kickstarter project runs through August 1, 2012. Note that the $775 funding level includes an OpenROV robot kit. Assembly and tinkering will be required. Kits include all laser cut parts, motors, electronics, tethers, and other hardware needed to build a complete OpenROV. A fully-assembled OpenROV will go to those who pledge $1,200. Delivery is slated for September 2012.