Building The Yellow Submarine

Submarine builds are always fun but frequently produce headaches when it comes to keeping the water out. [Jason Rollette] built this ROV to explore a shipwreck in Lake Michigan. The main structure is PVC and various bilge pumps are used for propulsion. An AVR ATmega32 controls the on board electronics with an Ethernet tether to the surface. He’s even got a visual basic program that displays system information and a video feed. It may not be as stylish as the last submarine we saw but it’s amazingly well thought out and well built.

[Thanks Daphreak]

19 thoughts on “Building The Yellow Submarine

  1. This looks very familiar, but it mentions this is version 2 so maybe I saw the first build. Looks nice, would be interesting to see videos of the wreck from the new sub.

    Mike, what’s up with the titles on these latest posts? They might sound clever, but are a bit annoying in my feed reader since I have no idea what the post is actually about until I load the page now. Yesterday I didn’t check the post until later in the evening because the title made it sound like one of those news posts that was talking about the new Kindle in development; and the reason I read this one so quick was because I thought it was going to be a personal sub and not an ROV.

  2. Um… unless i missed it, this will have issues at any serious depth, he needs a system to increase the internal pressure in the sub to balance with the external pressure, otherwise the pvc will be crushed by the water pressure. remember the psi per 33 feet is 14.7, so multiply that by the surface area, and it adds up incredibly fast.

    It is definately cool, and I am tempted to try something like this…

  3. In the town where I was born,
    Lived a man who sailed to sea,
    And he told us of his life,
    In the land of submarines,

    So we sailed on to the sun,
    Till we found the sea green,
    And we lived beneath the waves,
    In our yellow submarine,

  4. That “waterproof” cable isn’t even remotely, uh, waterproof. The silicone is going to gradually release from the cable (especially if it is even slightly bent or tugged), and water will leak right in. Or if the cable becomes nicked, water is going to flood into the cable (and go all the way up to the surface level, AND fill the sub.)

    Second problem: PVC is rated to some pretty high pressures, but if it is bumped, scratched, etc that pressure rating drops quite a bit…and when it gives, it shatters (which is why it is so incredibly dangerous to use in a pneumatic potato gun.) So, you’ll be humming along one second, and then the next everything will go dead, and about 15 seconds later, there will be a nice cloud of bubbles on the surface…

  5. I’ve often wondered about how to waterproof a project like this. What about filling the moisture-sensitive chambers with mineral oil? It doesn’t compress or conduct electricity, meaning it would be less likely to leak, and even if it did leak, the mineral oil would insulate the electronics from the water.

  6. he should probably use grease filled cable for the tether, or something with a metal moisture barrier.
    the plastic in ethernet cable is fairly porous, water will eventually get in and ruin the cable, but probably wont get too far into the sub,

    how i know this? i work for telstra, as a linesman/cable technician. normal air core cable exposed to moisture, given time, always ends up filled with water. even if it is sealed at both ends

  7. From the Halls of Montezuma,
    To the shores of Tripoli;
    We fight our country’s battles
    In the air, on land, and sea;
    First to fight for right and freedom
    And to keep our honor clean;
    We are proud to claim the title
    Of the PVC sub-Marine.

  8. I’m wondering how good the seals on the bilge pump motors really are – they’ll take indefinite immersion at low levels but usually aren’t pressure rated beyond their lift height (maybe 10 – 15′ or so).

  9. If you want the PVC to go deep drill holes in it and let the water in, it won’t really effect the strength. If you want it to float (neutral or positive buoyancy)you need pressure tolerant floats. Pros use syntactic foam, micro sized glass or ceramic beads in a casting resin. Low budget projects can use oil (it floats and doesn’t compress much.), preferably vegetable based if you want to spare severe fines for any leaks. For oil you will need pressure compensation between the vssel and the sea, think rubber bladder like say is used for hot water bottle or pneumatic lifters for cars. As to wire? Many companies sell Teflon or silicon jacketed cable specifically made for sub-sea use. Cheaper alternatives are any wire rated SO, SOO, or SOOW. For splices and general waterproofing nothing beats Scothcast 2130 or 2135. Motors and electronics can be filled with oil and compensated, Cameras not so much. Cameras need to be mounted in aluminum or steel housings (think pipe.) For connectors and pass throughs hydraulic fitting + Scotchcast. This all plus some thought on your part can get you to a couple hundred meters.

    ~ I Drive the Yellow Submarines

  10. diving can be learned in a weekend… for a couple for a hundred bucks canadian. granted your certified to 130ft, but another weekend and you can learn mixed gas diving, and be good to go as deep as you are crazy.

    I personally have the training to go to 300 feet or more, but have never done it, as the risks are too great for whats down there. Typically black and cold.

  11. I am looking to do this submarine project in a college readiness program. I was looking for the instructions, but when I follow the link, I get a ‘failed to load’ error. Does anyone have the instructions for this?

    Any help would be appreciated.

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