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Using TechShop and open source development, citizen scientists are developing an underwater robot that could improve our understanding of the marine world.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed highly advanced remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) that are equipped with lights, cameras and a variety of sensors and tools. But you can't pick one up at your local Best Buy. Partners Eric Stackpole and David Lang, however, are developing a personal ROV that any citizen scientist could use.
Using the Arduino open source software development platform and machining the parts at TechShop, a membership-based club for makers and tinkerers, Stackpole and Lang have created an OpenROV kit that they're selling on Kickstarter.
OpenROV contains an HD webcam, LED lights, and eight onboard batteries. It can move at 2.2 miles per hour. Though it has been brought down to just 65 feet thus far, it can go down 300 feet. The batteries can power the device for up to 1.5 hours.
In an interview with Co.Exist, Stackpole and Lang said there are many potential applications for the device but at the moment they're busily tweaking and refining the OpenROV, with the help of individuals who are keen to contribute to its development.
One of the benefits of developing a small open-source device like the OpenROV is low cost. They're selling it initially for $775, through a Kickstarter campaign that has well exceeded its goal. But commercial ROVs of the type used by the U.S. government costs tens of thousands more.
OpenROV has been tested in two expeditions thus far, including one to NOAA's Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater research lab in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where the video below was shot.
Images: OpenROV; Video: Chris Gerty
Jul 8, 2012