Hackaday Prize Entry: Underwater Glider Offers Low-Power Exploration

[Alex Williams] created his Open Source Underwater Glider project as an entry to The Hackaday Prize, and now it’s one of our twenty finalists. This sweet drone uses motor-actuated syringes to serve as a ballast tank, which helps the glider move forward without the use of traditional propellers.

Unlike most UAVs, which use motors to actively move the craft around, [Alex]’s glider uses the syringes to change the buoyancy of the craft, and it simply glides around on its wings. When the craft starts getting too deep, the syringes push out the water and the glider rises toward the surface until it’s ready for another glide.

This low-power solution allows for long-term science projects and research. In addition to conserving power, the glider’s slow travel does not disturb the water or sea life.

[Alex]’s goal is to make his glider open source and 3D printable, combined with off-the-shelf hardware and ArduSub under the hood.

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Humans May Have Accidentally Created a Radiation Shield Around Earth


NASA spends a lot of time researching the Earth and its surrounding space environment. One particular feature of interest are the Van Allen belts, so much so that NASA built special probes to study them! They’ve now discovered a protective bubble they believe has been generated by human transmissions in the VLF range.

VLF transmissions cover the 3-30 kHz range, and thus bandwidth is highly limited. VLF hardware is primarily used to communicate with submarines, often to remind them that, yes, everything is still fine and there’s no need to launch the nukes yet.  It’s also used for navigation and broadcasting time signals.

It seems that this human transmission has created a barrier of sorts in the atmosphere that protects it against radiation from space. Interestingly, the outward edge of this “VLF Bubble” seems to correspond very closely with the innermost edge of the Van Allen belts caused by Earth’s magnetic field. What’s more, the inner limit of the Van Allan belts now appears to be much farther away from the Earth’s surface than it was in the 1960s, which suggests that man-made VLF transmissions could be responsible for pushing the boundary outwards.

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PVC Submersible ROV

[mark.brubaker.1] and his crew decided to make a submersible for a school project using PVC pipes as a frame. It has two motors on the back to provide forward thrust and steering as well as a horizontal mounted motor in the middle of the PVC chassis to provide up and down thrust. They used regular motors which they waterproofed by inserting them inside a case full of plumbers wax. We’re not sure how long this will hold at the bottom of the ocean, but it works fine for a school project in the pool. Here’s the instructions on how to make one.

The build is completely analog, the controller is a board with three switches which individually control the different motors. So if you want to turn left, you fired up the right motor. For right you do the opposite and fire up the left motor. Up and down, well, you get the picture. If you have a swimming pool, lake or some water body nearby and you’re looking for a weekend project with your kids, this is a great tip. It’s not an Arduino controlled robot fish, but it’s a first step in that direction; you can later on use the frame to improve on the design and add some electronics.

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The Hunt For Red October In A Bathtub

Anything can be a remote controlled airplane, and ‘copters – quad or not – simply beat the air into submission. Remote controlled cars are easy, and RC tanks can even shoot their guns. One type of vehicle has eluded remote control hobbyists to a large extent; building a remote control submarine is hard. Not only do you have buoyancy to worry about, but you also need a way to keep the dry parts dry, all while operating in an environment where radio doesn’t really work well.

[Ivan] has already built RC planes, but wanted to tackle a new challenge. He built an RC submarine, and he did it using the simplest household materials.

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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!

Autonomous RiverBot Goes 15 Meters Deep

If you want to make a submersible robot (or, really, any robot) you can either design it for a specific mission, or you can try to make it general purpose. The researchers at the Cura Oceanus Foundation opted for the latter approach with RiverBot, a community-designed unmanned submersible.

Comparing it to the Space Shuttle, the RiverBot has payload bays that accept sensor kits or custom-made payloads. The builders hope to provide a platform for students and others and want to have students start with RiverBot in middle school, and keep working with the program all the way up to the PhD level.

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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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