Website Moved to a New Host

Hello everyone! Our website was down for maintenance for a few hours last night. In that time, we migrated everything over to a new hosting service with the hope of improving the website speed. I want to share a few details about that for anyone who might be interested.

First of all, some parts of our site are hosted elsewhere already, and they work pretty well. The documentation is hosted on Github and the new forums are hosted by Discourse. You might have noticed that our main site and store has been painfully slow recently. Here’s a screenshot from Pingdom showing the loading time for the store page on our old host (Dreamhost):



21.80 seconds to load the page – only faster than 7% of websites!? Clearly we needed to figure out how to improve that. Last night, we migrated the website to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The results are pretty shocking:



As you can see, there’s an eightfold improvement in loading speed, making us faster than 60% of websites. While that could still be improved, it’s a massive difference from the old host. The website “Performance Grade” didn’t actually change much at at all, rising from 60 to 63. That’s because that score judges how efficiently the website is coded, not where it is hosted. That can be improved by adding features such as server side caching and browser caching. We’ll work on adding that in the future.

Everything seems to be working as it should on the migrated site, but please let us know if anything seems to be broken! If you find any issues, please let us know at info@bluerobotics.com.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on this, there’s a post on the forums for comments and discussion.

The T200 Thruster: Make/100 Limited Edition

Hey Guys! We have super exciting news to share with you all today – we are back on Kickstarter with a limited edition T200 Thruster! Check out the video below!

The Kickstarter Make/100 creative initiative focuses on limited editions of 100. Our plan is to build 100 sets of a clear version of the T200 Thruster, perfect for showing off to curious minds, learning about engineering and design, and for making some unique looking underwater projects! It uses all the same parts as the original T200, but with clear polycarbonate plastic and clear urethane jacket (not shown in the video).

Alongside the campaign, we’ll be donating 50 T100 Thrusters to the MATE Center, for middle school and high school robotics teams in need of financial support. We hope you’ll join us as one of our 100 backers!

Check out the campaign:

The T200 Thruster: Make/100 Limited Edition

Customer Spotlight: Science in the Wild

Climate change is transforming our planet faster than ever. Depending on your location on the globe, you may be experiencing extreme effects or none at all. Unfortunately, residents living near The Ngozumpa, one of Nepal’s largest and longest glaciers are experiencing the effects first hand.

At the start of the monsoon this past summer, one lake in particular is capable of losing enough water to fill 40 Olympic sized pools – in less than 48 hours. One can only imagine the disastrous effects these flash floods are having on local communities.

Ngozumpa glacier. Credit: Benjamin Pothier

As we learn more about the changing earth, we also develop solutions to the problems climate change brings. Analyzing areas that are highly susceptible to devastating impact allows us to better predict upcoming changes, which is massively beneficial to the people living in these regions. This past summer, Patrick Rowe, along with a team of scientists from the organization Science in the Wild, traveled to the Himalayas to do just that. SITW’s founder, Dr. Ulyana N. Horodyskyj, has been studying the glacier since 2011, collecting data to investigate how the melting masses may pose a threat to local communities.

The glacial lakes are much too dangerous to put humans on which is why Patrick designed and built an unmanned surface vessel (USV). The USV’s main function was to survey the glacial lakes using a sonar – he and other researchers are trying to understand formation, growth, depth, and composition of the lakes. Using marine robotic vehicles to gather crucial information is not only much faster and more accurate than using humans, but also much safer. Patrick needed to build a USV that was small enough to carry, but rugged enough to get the job done. Check out his USV in action – powered by T200 thrusters!

Patrick and his team with his USV – powered by T200s.

Patrick and Ulyana plan to train local engineers to use robots to analyze the changing lakes and equip them with the tools needed to protect their homes. Not only will this better prepare residents for the disastrous effects caused by the floods, but it will also create a number of jobs for the villages’ inhabitants. We look forward to seeing the efforts and progress influenced by the results of these investigations!

For more information on Science in the Wild and the effects of climate change on Himalayan villages, check out the following links!

Science in the Wild

Using Swimming Robots to Warn Villages of Himalayan Tsunamis

Are you doing something sweet with your Blue Robotics components? Tell us about it! We love seeing and sharing what our customers are doing with our products!

Happy New Year from Blue Robotics!

Happy New Year to all of our customers and friends!

We want to share a few thoughts to summarize the end of the year. 2016 has been an incredible year for us – we’ve grown from offering just thrusters and enclosures to a full product line of subsea components. We launched some of our most popular products like the Bar30 pressure sensor, Fathom-X tether interface board, Lumen Subsea Light, Fathom tether, and our favorite, of course, the BlueROV2.

We also grew as a company, doubling our staff and tripling our facility size to accommodate all of the new products. We increased from five to nearly thirty distributors who are working hard to make sure our products are accessible and well-supported all around the world. We have a lot of new customers and we’re incredibly proud to support hundreds of businesses, schools, and teams – seeing your projects and applications is the most rewarding part for us.

We have no plans of slowing down anytime soon! I want to give you a little taste of what’s to come in 2017.

We have an exciting and fun campaign coming in January that you’ll want to jump on quickly. We’re adding some important facility upgrades here in March, and we’ll have a big product launch in June, fittingly one year after the launch of the BlueROV2. As always, we’ll have new product launches throughout the year – there are a few in particular that we are very excited about!

We wish you all a wonderful New Year!

Happy Thrusting,

– Rusty and the Blue Robotics Team

New Products! Moisture Indicating Silica Gel Desiccant and Aluminum End Caps

Hey everyone! We hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Festivus! We are en-closing out 2016 with a few new components for our Watertight Enclosure Series! Pun definitely intended.

Moisture Indicating Silica Gel Desiccant

First up today we’ve got Moisture Indicating Silica Gel Desiccant. We use the desiccant in our enclosures to reduce humidity caused by condensation – any moisture inside of the enclosure will cause it to fog when placed in the water. The desiccant is blue when it’s dry and turns pink when it’s not. It can be baked in an oven to recharge and dry it out if necessary. Comes with 3 nylon drawstring bags.

Aluminum End Caps for 2″, 3″, and 4″ Series Enclosures

We’re excited to add these aluminum end caps to the roster. These end caps can achieve greater depths than their clear acrylic counterparts and they’re also stronger and easier to machine. You won’t be seeing the transparent caps in our store for much longer – we’ll be phasing out the versions with holes. Do yourself a solid and snag them before they sell out! Check out the new aluminum options below:

That’s all we’ve got for today! We’ll see you in 2017! Cheers!

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.

(more…)

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!”

wasteshark-t200-1

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.

(more…)

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!

(more…)