Hacklet 98 – Underwater ROVs

A few motors, propellers, a camera, maybe a wire tether, and some waterproof electronics. Throw it all together and baby you’ve got an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) cooking! It all sounds simple on the surface, but underwater ROVs are a tough challenge. We’ve all seen deep-sea ROVs searching the wreck of the Titanic, or working to stop the flow of oil below the Deepwater Horizon. Plenty of hackers, makers, and engineers have been inspired to build their own underwater ROVs. This week on the Hacklet, we’re spotlighting at some of the best ROV projects on Hackaday.io!

borgcubeWe start with [Tim Wilkinson] and BorgCube ROV. [Tim] has jumped into the world of underwater ROVs with both feet. BorgCube is designed to operate in the unforgiving salt waters of the Pacific Ocean. This ROV can see in stereo, as [Tim] plans to use a head mounted VR display like the Oculus Rift to control it. [Tim] wanted to use a Raspberry Pi as the brains of this robot. Since the Pi Compute module can handle two cameras, it was a natural fit. The electronic speed controls are all low-cost Hobby King R/C car units. [Tim] created a custom circuit board to hold all 12 ESCs. This modular design allows individual controllers to be swapped out if one meets an untimely doom. BorgCube is just getting wet, but with 37 project logs and counting, we’re sure [Tim] will keep us posted on all the latest action!

 

lunaNext up is [MrCullDog] with Luna I ROV. Inspired by a professional underwater ROV, [MrCullDog] decided to build a deep diving unmanned vehicle of his very own. Like BorgCube above, many of Luna I’s motors and drive components come from radio controlled hobby electronics. [MrCullDog] is bringing some 3D printed parts into the mix as well. He’s already shown off some incredibly well modeled and printed thruster mounts and ducts. The brains of this robot will be an Arduino. Control is via wired Ethernet tether. [MrCullDog] is just getting started on this project, so click the follow button to see updates in your Hackaday.io Feed.

cavepearlNext up is [Edward Mallon] with The Cave Pearl Project. Not every underwater system needs motors – or even a human watching over it. The Cave Pearl Project is a series of long duration underwater data loggers which measure sea conditions like temperature and water flow. [Edward’s] goal is to have a device which can run for a year on just three AA batteries. An Arduino Pro Mini captures data from the sensors, time stamps it, and stores it to a micro SD card. If the PVC pipe enclosure keeps everything dry, the data will be waiting for [Edward] to collect months later. [Edward] isn’t just testing in a swimming pool, he’s been refining his designs in open water for a couple of years now.

 

If you want to see more under (and above) water projects, check out our updated waterborne projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Fire Breathing Animatronic Waterfowl, Just Because

Unless you’re a collector or a hunter, waterfowl decoys are pretty boring. Radio controlled decoys that can putt around are kind of cool. But a radio controlled animatronic fire-breathing decoy? That’s the very opposite of boring.

This is another one of those projects from the “Why the Hell Not?” files, and [David Windestål] is pretty clear that there’s no practical purpose for a flame-throwing, floating fowl. This doesn’t stop him from including 100-plus pictures as well as the video below in his detailed build log, and there are actually some tips to be had here. The remains of an RC racing boat that can hit 30 km/h are used for the floating gear; sadly the decoy superstructure reduces the speed by a factor of 10, so if you’re hoping for a high-performance decoy you’ll be disappointed. The rotating head and evil glowing LED eyes make up for that, though, as does the articulated beak. But the butane flame thrower, with laser-cut acrylic frame and servo flow control, really adds to the menace of the Duck from Hell. Or goose. Whatever.

As with most projects of this type, this is clearly a “do not try this at home” build, but it looks like a bunch of fun. For more ill-advised fun check out this mini RC flame thrower or the Doof warrior ukulele.

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Take Your Robots Tubing

When you think of a robot, you might think of one with wheels, tracks, or even legs. But today’s robots are as likely to have wings, props, or even some way to propel it through the water. If you are bored with quadcopters and want to build a water-going robot, you should check out Jalcboat, an open source robot/boat. Although the project is under development, the videos (see below) show that they’ve made a good bit of progress.

As you might expect, 3D printing is a key ingredient and the files are available on Thingiverse linked above. In addition, the robotic boat has a Raspberry Pi onboard to control brushless motors. The main web site is more of a discussion forum and some of it is in Spanish, so you might want to keep Google translate handy.

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Hacklet 71 – Waterborne projects

Water: Life on earth wouldn’t exist without it. 71 percent of the Earth is covered by water. That only leaves 29 percent for us humans to live – and not all of that land is inhabitable. Water is so important that most human settlements start near water of some sort. Water to drink, or water to move goods. With all this water in oceans, lakes, and rivers, it is no surprise that hackers, makers, and engineers alike build some incredible projects that work on and under the water.

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Simple Autonomy with an RC Boat

[Vlad] wrote in to tell us about his latest project—an RC boat that autonomously navigates between waypoints. Building an autonomous vehicle seems like a really complicated project, but [Vlad]’s build shows how you can make a simple waypoint-following vehicle without a background in autonomy and control systems. His design is inspired by the Scout autonomous vehicle that we’ve covered before.

[Vlad] started prototyping with an Arduino, a GPS module, and a digital compass. He wrote a quick sketch that uses the compass and GPS readings to control a servo that steers towards a waypoint. [Vlad] took his prototype outside and walked around to make sure that steering and navigation were working correctly before putting it in a boat. After a bit of tweaking, his controller steered correctly and advanced to the next waypoint after the GPS position was within 5 meters of its goal.

boatgifNext [Vlad] took to the water. His first attempt was a home-built airboat, which looked awesome but unfortunately didn’t work very well. Finally he ended up buying a $20 boat off of eBay and made a MOSFET-based motor controller to drive its dual thrusters. This design worked much better and after a bit of PID tuning, the boat was autonomously navigating between waypoints in the water. In the future [Vlad] plans to use the skills he learned on this project to make an autopilot for the 38-foot catamaran his dad is building (an awesome project by itself!). Watch the video after the break for more details and to see the boat in action.

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Project Sea Rendering Autonomously Renders Sea Bottoms

[Geir] has created a pretty neat device, it’s actually his second version of an autonomous boat that maps the depths of lakes and ponds. He calls it the Sea Rendering. The project is pretty serious as the hull was specially made of fiberglass. The propulsion is a simple DC motor and the rudder is powered by an RC servo. A light and flag adorn the top deck making the small craft visible to other larger boats that may be passing by. Seven batteries are responsible for all of the power requirements.

Sea Rendering

The craft’s course is pre-programmed in Mission Planner and uses ArduPilot loaded on an Arduino to steer to the defined way points. An onboard GPS module determines the position of the boat while a transducer measures the depth of the water. Both position and depth values are then saved to an SD card. Those values can later be imported into a software called Dr Depth that generates a topographic map of the water-covered floor.

[Geir] has sent this bad boy out on an 18 km journey passing through 337 way points. That’s pretty impressive! He estimates that the expected run time is 24 hours at a top speed of 3 km/h, meaning it could potentially travel 72 km on a single charge while taking 700 depth measurements during the voyage.

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Canoeing Sans Paddles. Yes, it is Possible

Now that Spring is upon us, it’s time to get out the kayaks, canoes and row boats. As fun as paddling around a lake may be, after a long winter of sitting inside our arms are not up to that task. Well, [comsa42] has a solution to that problem. He’s made a quick-attaching trolling motor setup for his canoe and documented the process along the way.

[comsa42] started with a run of the mill canoe. Although he wanted a trolling motor option, he didn’t want to permanently modify the canoe. He started by making a wooden beam that spans the width of the canoe and overhangs on one side. The beam was notched out to securely fit over the lip of the canoe and a couple bolts and washers were used to clamp the beam to the canoe. This beam is just a few inches behind the rear seat so that the motor is at a comfortable position for the person steering.

The electric trolling motor is attached to this beam. To power the trolling motor, [comsa42] wired up two 12v deep cycle marine batteries in parallel. He installed them in a recycled wooden case to protect the batteries from the elements or occasional splash.

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