Aerial drones are great for providing a bird’s eye view of our world. That said, some people are more interested in seeing a fish’s eye view of their local seacoast or lake. Previously, such folks had to build their own underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV). Three years ago, San Francisco startup OpenROV made things a little easier for them, by offering an ROV kit that users put together themselves. Now, the company is crowdfunding the fully-assembled Trident ROV, which can reportedly be "flown" through the water.
The hydrodynamic-bodied Trident has two rear thrusters that provide rapid horizontal propulsion, along with a third mid-mounted vertical thruster that moves the ROV vertically. It has a top speed of 2 meters (6.6 ft) per second, and can descend to a maximum depth of 100 meters (328 ft). That said, it can also hover on the spot, delicately panning and tilting to inspect targets via its front-mounted HD video camera and six LED spotlights.
Radio waves don’t travel well through water, however. That’s why the Trident sends real-time video and receives commands via a neutrally-buoyant cable that runs up to a Wi-Fi-equipped buoy, which is towed along above it at the surface. This means that although the ROV is tethered, it isn’t limited by a cable that runs all the way back to the operator. In fact, the cable that it comes with is 25 m (82 ft) long – buyers who want to take the Trident deeper can go with an optional longer cable.
Users control the ROV and view its video via open-source software on a topside laptop or mobile device. Along with providing real-time remote control, this program can also be used to set the Trident to perform grid searches of a given area.
One charge of its LiFePO4 battery pack should allow for up to three hours of use – remember, unlike an aerial drone, it isn’t constantly working to stay aloft.
If you’re liking the sounds of the Trident, you can currently preorder one on OpenROV’s Kickstarter page with a pledge of US$799. The planned retail price is $1,199. Assuming all goes according to plans, backers should receive their ROVs next November.