OpenROV Trident – An Underwater Drone for Everyone
We were working out of Eric’s garage at the time, building the original prototype to explore a cave in Northern California with rumors of lost treasure (the full story can be heard in this TED talk). We never found the gold, but we received messages from people all over the world who wanted to help us and improve the robot. The Kickstarter project was the springboard. Since then, we’ve shipped thousands of OpenROV kits to people all over the world.
Every aspect of the Trident design has been painstakingly thought out in order to optimize performance and usability in any situation. One of the secrets of its versatility is the unique, hydrodynamically offset thruster design. This configuration allows you to move through the water fast and efficiently when you want to rapidly search an area or run a transect, but also allows you to maneuver very delicately when in tight quarters or while looking at a particular target.
By taking advantage of drag’s exponential relationship with velocity, the off-center vertical thruster of the ROV can cause it to pitch at high speeds but also hover or change depth without pitching while operating at low speeds – similar to the way a traditional ROV works.
We’ve designed Trident to be ultra portable and ultra durable. The form factor is small enough to fit in a backpack or fit under an airplane seat. The side panels are overmolded with a strong, rubber coating, which gives it protection from underwater obstacles as well as rough handling when being transported.
The data connection to Trident is a major evolution from the connection set up of the original OpenROV kit. It uses a neutrally buoyant tether to communicate to a towable buoy on the surface (radio waves don’t travel well in water) and the buoy connects to the pilot using a long range WiFi signal. Using a wireless towable buoy greatly increases the practical range of the vehicle while doing transects and search patterns since a physical connection between the vehicle and the pilot doesn’t need to be maintained. You can connect to the buoy and control Trident using a tablet or laptop from a boat or from the shore.