New Products! SOS Leak Sensor and I2C Level Converter

Hello everyone! With the end of the year approaching we’ve been hard at work getting a few new products ready for release.

SOS Leak Sensor

First up today is a product that’s useful on almost any underwater project: the SOS Leak Sensor. Named after the International Morse Code Distress Signal, the SOS Leak Sensor can detect a small or big leak in your project. It uses a detector circuit built onto the probe host board which can connect to up to 4 probes. The leak sensor probes use a small adhesive-backed sponge to detect just a few drops of water and give you a warning.

The probe host board has header pin connectors to send a simple on/off (high/low) signal to a Pixhawk, Arduino, or other microcontroller. The sensor is already supported in ArduSub and easy to install on the BlueROV2. For more details, check out the SOS Leak Sensor documentation.

The SOS Leak Sensor comes with four probes but the leak sensor probes and replacement probe tips are also available separately in a few styles. The replacement tips allow you to quickly “reset” the leak sensor after it’s triggered without drying out the sponge.

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New Products! Payload Skid for the BlueROV2 and 3″/4″ Enclosure Mounting Clamps

Hello everyone! Happy Election Day in the US – make sure you vote!

Today we have a few new products including the first major accessory for the BlueROV2, a payload skid that allows you to integrate large payloads onto the vehicle. We also have a new enclosure mounting clamps that make it easy to securely mount the 3″ and 4″ Series enclosures to the skid and elsewhere.

Payload Skid

This payload skid is the ROV equivalent of a pickup truck bed – it provides a bunch of real estate to carry large stuff. That stuff can be just about anything ranging from extra batteries, to experimental sensors, to multibeam sonars. The skid is made of rugged HDPE plastic just like the BlueROV2 and it has mounting holes for up to three 3″ Series enclosures or one 4″ Series enclosure. The skid comes without enclosures so that you can configure it however you’d like!

Four aluminum mounting brackets quickly connect the Payload Skid to the ROV so that it can be installed and removed in the field. Check out the documentation page for more details.

Enclosure Mounting Clamps

Sometimes it isn’t easy to install a round enclosure in a square ROV! That’s the case with the Payload Skid, so we made these Enclosure Mounting Clamps for the 3″ Series and 4″ Series enclosures to make them easy to install in any build. These are perfect for the Payload Skid and the 3″ version is already used to hold the lower battery enclosure on the BlueROV2.

The two identical halves screw together to securely hold onto the enclosure. Mounting holes on the side use M4 screws to hold the enclosure to the Payload Skid or other locations. The result is simple and much more secure than straps or other mounting methods!

That’s all we’ve got today! Stay tuned for more updates later this month!

Customer Spotlight: RanMarine

The statistics regarding ocean trash are staggering. According to National Geographic, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, and of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface. But for one South African entrepreneur, one man’s trash is another man’s business venture.

Richard Hardiman and RanMarine have developed a solar-powered unmanned surface vessel (USV) that is capable of cleaning water surfaces with little or no human supervision. The Waste Shark scoops up debris, marine waste, and chemical substances in harbors and canals and uses sensors to communicate data regarding water quality, weather, and depth of the basin. The Waste Shark has been in development for several years, but the folks at RanMarine have had their eyes on Blue Robotics thrusters for the better part of the last year.

wateshark-2

Waste Shark at the Port of Rotterdam. Photo: RanMarine

“We were at a pretty crucial stage of our build and had a lot riding on the propulsion actually operating effectively…” Hardiman explains. “We needed simplicity but reliability without sacrificing thrust – a tall order. As it worked out the first test was perfect and the output was actually far more than we needed! We love them!”

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Waste Shark with T200s. Photo: RanMarine

Over the next 6 months, four Waste Sharks will be deployed at the Port of Rotterdam’s basins, eating up litter floating on the surface – as much as 1100 lbs at once. The USVs act in unison with each other and are operable 24/7. Check out the Waste Shark in action!

For more on RanMarine and the Waste Shark:

RanMarine

Port of Rotterdam

Popular Science

Maritime Journal

New and Updated Products! GoPro Mount, Switch, and 4″ Dome

Happy Navy Day, friends! We have a couple new products and one updated product to share with you today. Let’s get to the good stuff!

GoPro Mount

This 3D printed GoPro mount makes it easy to attach a GoPro or GoPro-compatible camera to your BlueROV2. The mount attaches to the front of the battery enclosure where it has the same view and lighting as the main camera. We’ve also made the 3D files freely available so you are welcome to print these bad boys yourself!

Switch

We’ve had quite a few requests for this product so we are especially stoked to bring you the Switch! It allows you to turn a circuit on and off inside a watertight enclosure without needing to open it! Handling up to 5A of current and 120V, you can use it to directly operate low power circuits or interact with a microcontroller to provide input for the operation of your vehicle.

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Using Blue Robotics Components on a Competition ROV

By: Adam Šimko, Mechanical Engineer at Blue Robotics

ROV Competitions: Learning for the Future

In all four years of high school, I competed in the MATE Underwater ROV competition, and loved it! From freshman year when my Scout class ROV was barely able to move, to Junior and Senior years when my team and I advanced to the international competition and ended up placing third, and then first, in the world in Ranger class, I learned key skills and acquired knowledge which I draw from on a daily basis. In fact, my participation is what led to my interest in marine robotics, and played a large part in landing me an internship at Blue Robotics last year, leading to my job here now. The competition has certainly evolved since I was a participant- back in my day the only thruster option in the budget was converted bilge pump motors. We used them and we liked it! Now many teams are stepping up to the increased challenge of the competition, and using newly affordable products, like ours, which didn’t exist just a few years ago.

A T100 Thruster mounted on a competition ROV (left), and ROV with 5 T100 Thrusters (right).

If you’re interested in using some of our products for a student ROV or subsea vehicle competition, you likely have a few questions about what parts to use to make a competent ROV. I’ve put together this brief introduction going over some of our products and how to use them in your vehicle to make it easy to get your competition ROV ready and running!

Thrusters

The core of any good ROV is a set of powerful and reliable thrusters to move around with and accomplish your mission goals. For student teams, we recommend our T100 thruster for these reasons:

  • A student team friendly price, while still having plenty of thrust.
  • Low power draw, making it more appropriate for competitions, which often have a maximum allowable current too low to fully utilize the T200 thruster.

Depending on the number of thrusters you are planning on using, you may have to limit the max throttle on your thrusters to prevent blowing your fuse! Don’t worry, even at half throttle, a T100 will be much more powerful and efficient than a bilge pump thruster. Refer to the specifications and charts in the documentation to get an idea of the power draw and performance.

A competition AUV at the AUVSI RoboSub competition in 2016.

It’s important to note that our thrusters are based on brushless motors, different from the traditional brushed design found in most other ROV thrusters and electric motors. The easiest way to tell these motor types apart is by the number of wires they have- if there are three wires coming out, like our thrusters, this means it’s a brushless motor. You can’t run our thrusters by simply connecting them to a battery or switch (unless you want a barbecue!), you need a brushless electronic speed controller, or ESC, like our Basic ESC. The Basic ESC allows you to efficiently and smoothly operate a thruster with standard RC PWM signals, which can easily be generated by an Arduino microcontroller. Simply program the Arduino, hook it up to the ESC and motor as outlined in our documentation, and you’re good to go! There are tons of tutorials and examples of how to use an Arduino online, and this method will allow you to control your ROV with a gamepad, joystick, or any other kind of controller you can attach to a computer. You will need one ESC per thruster- there’s no clever way to get around this!

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New Products! Electronics Tray, Camera Tilt System, BlueROV2 Spares Kit

Good day everyone! This week we are announcing a few more products that are already part of the BlueROV2 but are very useful on their own!

Electronics Tray for the 4″ Series Enclosure

This Electronics Tray makes it dramatically easier to mount electronics and other equipment inside the 4″ Series Watertight Enclosure. It consists of machined ABS plastic parts and anodized aluminum parts. The main tray has mounting holes for a variety of different electronics, for cables to be routed, and for terminal blocks to distribute power. The front panel has mounting holes for the camera tilt mount and the rear has extra space for cable routing from the cable penetrators at the back of the enclosure.

On the BlueROV2 we mount this tray vertically so that we can see all of the electronics easily, but it can be used horizontally as well.

Camera Tilt System for RasPi Camera and Analog Camera

The Camera Tilt System is a tilting camera mount which works seamlessly with the Watertight Enclosure for ROV/AUV (4″ Series) and the Electronics Tray (4″ Series).The camera mounts are compatible with our Raspberry Pi Camera w/ Wide Angle Lens and our Low-Light Analog Camera.

The mount uses a high-quality Hitec HS-5055MG digital servo for smooth performance

BlueROV2 Spares Kit and Spare Basic ESC

Are you going on an extended voyage and want to ensure you have everything you need for a smooth journey? This BlueROV2 Spares Kit is just what you need! Having a few extras of these key items should put your mind at ease. We chose the items in this kit based on our own experiences in the field. Includes 1 T200, 1 Basic ESC, 1 Dome End Cap, 1 Lead Weight, and various O-rings and zip ties.

We also have the Basic ESC available with the connectors used on the BlueROV2. These make for a quick replacement on the BlueROV2 if an ESC ever fails!

That’s all we’ve got today! Stay tuned for more new products in the future!

2nd Annual Product Interest Survey + Last Year’s Results

Last year we asked all of our customers and followers to complete a “product interest survey” to help guide our future plans. It worked out so well that we’re doing it again. If you have a moment, please take our 2nd Annual Product Interest Survey and let us know what you want. It really matters to us and it actually affects what we work on next. Plus, there’s a $300 Blue Robotics Gift Card in it for some lucky survey respondent!

Take the 2nd Annual Product Interest Survey!

In the spirit of being an open and transparent company, we want to share some of the results from last year’s survey and show you how we used that info! Continue reading if you’re interested!

Vehicle Type

The first question addressed the type of vehicle. We got an overwhelming response for “ROV” versus any other marine vehicles.

Applications

The applications questions got widely varied results. The most popular answers were “robotics competitions”, “recreation”, “wreck discovery”, “exploration”, and “photography”. With the exception of “robotics competitions”, all of those applications boil down to having a solid ROV with a good camera. “Robotics competitions” requires a wide variety of good products, open and helpful documentation, and lots of flexibility!

Depth Rating

As I think we expected, most people are interested in the 25-100m depth range, which has interesting things to see but is still fairly accessible. Too deep for snorkeling but not deep enough that really expensive equipment or boats are required. The rest of the data forms a nearly-perfect bell curve. We’ve made sure that every component we design is capable of at least 100m but when possible we try to design for much deeper.

Sensors, Components, and Systems

The last two questions have really driven our product development. As you’ll see on the results below, we’ve addressed many of the requested sensors and most of the requested components. As far as sensors go, cameras and pressure/depth sensors were the clear winners. We’ve addressed both of those in the Bar30 Pressure/Depth Sensor and in a few different camera options. The most requested components were watertight enclosures and underwater connectors. Almost everything we listed in this question got at least 50% positive responses, which is why we’ve made products for nearly everything on this list! And don’t worry, we plan to have underwater connectors eventually as well! We hope this information is informative, interesting, and shows you that we’re really focused on meeting our customer’s needs. Please take a chance to answer this year’s survey!

New Products! Raspberry Pi 3, Wide-Angle Camera, Penetrator Wrench, and Ballast

Today we’ve got a few new products! All of these are included in the BlueROV2 kit, but they’re very useful items on their own as well.

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B

First off is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the most popular single-board computer in the world that’s at the heart of our Advanced ROV Electronics Package for communication and video streaming. Besides that, it’s very useful in a wide range of projects. In addition to the Raspberry Pi, we have an 8GB micro SD card that is preloaded with the Raspbian Linux operating system as well as the software and startup scripts needed as a companion computer for ArduSub.

Raspberry Pi v2 Camera w/ Wide Angle Lens

Besides relaying communications from the Pixhawk autopilot through the tether, the Raspberry Pi is connected to a camera and reads, compresses, and sends the camera stream to the surface computer. The Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2 is the newest Raspberry Pi compatible camera, announced in April. The stock camera has a very narrow field-of-view of about 62 degrees horizontally. The version we have here has a custom M12 lens holder and a 1.7mm wide angle lens, expanding the camera’s field-of-view to about 110 degrees! This is much more suitable for use on an ROV and many other projects.

Penetrator Wrench

If you’ve ever tightened cable penetrators on a densely packed end-cap, like the 14 Holes End-Cap for the 4″ Series, you’ll know it can be tough. This specially designed penetrator wrench makes it easy! The chrome plated steel tool is shaped to fit over the penetrator head, even in tight spaces. The included lever bar allows you to hand tighten to the perfect amount of torque.

This is definitely our new favorite tool!

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New Videos of the BlueROV2 in Action

We’ve posted several new videos of the BlueROV2 in action in several locations. The first shows the BlueROV2 during a trip to Ensenada, Mexico where we visited two fish farms. The BlueROV2 was used to inspect their cage anchors and the inside of the cages. We were able to rapidly inspect anchors at 130 ft depth and found issues with several of them. Each anchor took 10-15 minutes to inspect.

The second video was from our filming on the Big Island of Hawaii. We visited a number of reef sites and filmed the fish and corals. All of this filming was done from shore, sometimes with a snorkeler in the water to film and keep an eye on the tether. The reef scenery and wildlife is incredible, but we also saw a significant amount of dead and dying coral. It’s sad to see.

We’ll have a few more videos from these trips, including one showing the open waters of Hawaii!

Press Release: New BlueROV2 Enables Underwater Exploration and Study


TORRANCE, California, 21 June 2016 – Torrance startup, Blue Robotics, announced a new high-performance and affordable underwater drone, the BlueROV2. The BlueROV2 continues Blue Robotics’ mission to improve the accessibility of ocean exploration and study. The BlueROV2 is available for reservations now and shipping will commence in August 2016.

Leveraging a vectored thruster configuration that is usually only seen in high-end vehicles, the BlueROV2 is smooth and stable yet highly maneuverable. It provides a solid platform to attach scientific equipment, film cinematographic quality shots, and explore the oceans down to a depth of 100 meters.

“From day one, our goal has been to make marine robotics accessible to more people and businesses than ever before,” said the company’s founder, Rustom Jehangir. Since announcing their first product, a low-cost underwater thruster motor, in 2014, Blue Robotics has been steadily releasing new enabling products ranging from watertight pressure enclosures to depth sensors and underwater lights. The new BlueROV2 is, according to Jehangir, the company’s “new flagship product – a fusion of all of our other products and efforts.”

Used in wide-ranging applications from boat inspections to aquaculture to shipwreck exploration, remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) have long been in an industry dominated by a small number of companies, targeting big business and government applications. The heavy price-tags attached to these vehicles can range from $4,000 to $100,000 or more.

The BlueROV2, however, comes in a number of different configurations, with a standard kit costing just around $3000. “We’re able to make the BlueROV2 at a fraction of the cost of similar vehicles thanks to many of the same technologies that have made aerial drones affordable,” said Jehangir. That includes the use of the open-source Pixhawk autopilot as well as a Raspberry Pi computer.

The price of the BlueROV2 will enable wider use of subsea vehicles for many people including universities, research organizations, small businesses, hobbyists, and first responders. “We know there are a lot of people out there with an urge to explore the ocean,” says Jehangir, “and the BlueROV2 is a tool to help them do so.”

The BlueROV2 is available as a partially assembled kit that is simple and enjoyable to build and requires several hours of user assembly. It can be reserved at no cost starting today, June 21st. The kits will begin shipping in August 2016.

Blue Robotics is based in Torrance, California and launched in 2014 with a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Since then, the company has shipped thousands of thruster motors and has released many other products for marine robotics. Blue Robotics’ products are in operation in over 40 countries worldwide.

Read more about the Blue Robotics Team and the BlueROV2 here:

(PDF and Word versions of this press release available on the media kit)