New Product: Lithium Battery Charger!

Hey there, friends! We’ve got an energizing new product today- a Lithium Battery Charger perfect for our high capacity Lithium-ion Battery (14.8V, 18Ah)! This 300W charger can charge at up to 20A, so it can charge our battery in 1-2 hours at the recommended 10A charge rate, while still having plenty of headroom for even larger batteries.

This charger can be powered by 100-240V AC wall power, or a 10-28V DC power supply, so it has plenty of flexibility wherever you may be. With built in balancing and discharge capability, your batteries of any chemistry can safely be kept in top condition for maximum performance and lifespan!

That’s it for today!

If you have any thoughts, please join the related discussion on our forums here!

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New Products: Watertight Enclosures and Basic ESC

Hello everyone! Today we’ve got enormous news for you. We are proudly introducing the 6″ Series and 8″ Series Watertight Enclosures! We’ve also got a new version of the Basic ESC.

6″ and 8″ Series Watertight Enclosures

We’re delighted to expand the line-up of watertight enclosures. These larger enclosures are perfect for those of you who need to keep a lot of stuff dry! We’re looking at you, AUVSI teams 😉 As with the rest of the enclosure series, the housings will be configurable and customizable with both aluminum and acrylic end cap options. Custom length tubes won’t be readily available, but don’t hesitate to let us know if you have a specific need. All of the components are available separately – the possibilities are nearly end(cap)less! Okay, that was a bit of a stretch…

The 6″ Series enclosures are rated to 65m and the 8″ Series enclosures are rated to 40m. We decided to measure their capacity by stuffing them with one of our favorite things: T100 Thrusters. You may also be able to spy a 3″ aluminum battery tube inside the 8″ enclosure.

6″ Enclosure (left) and 8″ Enclosure (right).

New Version of the Basic ESC

As you may have heard, the manufacturer of the Afro 30Amp ESC has ceased production of the model we currently sell, so we’ve been forced to switch to a slightly smaller version. We’ve added a heatsink to allow for the same current-handling capability. This version also have bare power leads instead of male 3.5mm bullet connectors.

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading and please let us know if you have any questions or comments. There is a discussion thread available related to this post on our forums.

New Products: 3″ Series and 4″ Series Aluminum Tubes!

Hey there, friends! We are deeply excited to announce today’s new product: aluminum tubes for the 3″ Series and 4″ Series Watertight Enclosures. These aluminum tubes have significantly greater depth ratings, better heat transfer to the water, and a hard anodized black finish. Both tubes are bored out from the inside for optimal wall thickness and to reduce the enclosure weight. The 3″ Series tube is rated for 500 meters (1640 ft) and the 4″ Series is rated for 400 meters (1312 ft).

Both tubes are available now (in fairly limited quantity initially) separately and as options in the watertight enclosure configuration pages.

Please note that the 3″ Series tube is 8.75″ long, just like the battery tube on the BlueROV2. Both of these tubes are drop in replacements for the enclosure tubes on the BlueROV2. We’ll get into more details on that once we’ve done more testing at depth!

2D drawing showed the bored out inside diameter to decrease weight and optimize depth rating.

As you may have seen on our social media, we have a new pressure test chamber, the #Crushinator!! The Crushinator will be able to reach pressures equivalent to 1000 meters underwater and will take our products to a whole new level of performance, reliability, and integrity. It can fit an entire BlueROV2 inside for testing!

Last week, we took a prototype aluminum 3″ Series enclosure to about 750m before imploding. That’s nearly 5 times the depth rating of the clear acrylic enclosure! Check out The Crushinator’s first victim below. RIP.

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New Product: The Water Linked Underwater GPS System!

Today we have a very special new product announcement. We’re partnering with Water Linked, a Norwegian company, and announcing the release of a revolutionarily low-cost Underwater GPS system. This new product, the Water Linked Underwater GPS Developer Kit combines a traditional GPS receiver and compass with an acoustic positioning system to provide positioning information underwater. We think this technology will be revolutionary to how we use ROVs.

We’re partnering with Water Linked as their first and only distributor for this system, and it will also be supported out of the box in ArduSub and the BlueROV2.

The Technology

The Water Linked positioning uses something called Short Baseline (SBL) acoustic positioning. Basically, the ROV has locator beacon that sends out an acoustic pulse. Near the surface, there are four receiver hydrophones lowered into the water. The hydrophones listen for the pulse from the locator beacon and use difference in the time-of-arrival to each receiver to triangulate the ROV’s position. SBL systems, compared to the USBL systems more often used on ROVs, have the advantage of working well in shallow water and noisy acoustic environments, such as in a fish cage.

Once the position is known relative to the receivers, the global position can be found by adding that to the position obtained by a GPS receiver. The Water Linked Underwater GPS system does that part internally so that it can provide the actual global position of the ROV as it’s output.

Why It’s Important

The addition of position information when operating an ROV or other marine robotic vehicle is a big change. It means that photos from inspections can be geotagged, targets with known coordinates can be found easily, and ROV can even be programmed to do autonomous actions, such as holding position in a current or following a set of GPS waypoints.

The Water Linked Underwater GPS Developer Kit

Today were launching the Underwater GPS system in a kit that includes all of the required hardware. The software is in a functional state already, but will be improved quite a bit over the next few months. That includes the addition of a well-documented API, performance improvements, and added features. The system includes everything you need to get started – check out the individual product pages for more details, datasheets, and info.

Orders can be placed today but please note that the first systems won’t ship until about June 15th of this year.

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Customer Spotlight: Fort Lewis College USV

By: Elisa M., Blue Robotics

We often hear about the lack of clean water in third world countries, but the issue becomes much more relevant when it hits close to home. For residents of the United States, the recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan has raised awareness and has influenced countless investigations of other water sources. We might assume water source monitoring is a given – especially when not done properly, the effects have potential to cause serious health issues for surrounding communities. The disaster has called attention to neglected water infrastructure nationwide, and with this new understanding comes new solutions to solving these problems.

Poor water infrastructure is not the only cause of water pollution; sometimes accidents happen. In 2015, while working on a project to treat the water of the Cement Creek in Colorado, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers accidentally released an estimated 1 million gallons of mine waste. Fortunately, city managers were able to shunt off the reservoir in time to avoid contamination. The event motivated students at nearby Fort Lewis College to develop a robotic system capable of effective and efficient aquatic monitoring, just in case a similar accident were to happen without any obvious signs that would allow for a quick reaction.

Kayakers in the Animas River near Durango, Colorado, after the spill. Credit: Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP

Jacob Anderson and his classmates designed a network of autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) to continuously monitor the water quality and quantity in the City of Durango’s water reservoir. They created the hulls for three vehicles, Jacob explained. “The plan is to have a vehicle patrol each of the two water inlets to the reservoir and the outfall to the water treatment plant.” The vehicles were built with a number of off the shelf products, including an Arduino Mega for control, an Adafruit Breakout V3 GPS and IMU for navigation, communication through a Particle Electron board, and propulsion with Blue Robotics T200s.

The ASVs collect data regarding the physical properties, including pH levels, temperature, and salinity. The information is reported in near real time to local resource managers and is also publicly accessible. This allows for a quick response time to quality concerns, and also encourages public engagement through educational outreach and citizen scientist programs. Jacob and his team “created ASVs instead of sensor nodes so that [they] can also use them for robotics research while monitoring the reservoir. Fort Lewis College is starting a robotics and computer engineering program, so the hope is that future students will be using these vehicles as part of their college education.”

1 of 3 ASVs, equipped with T200s.

As we continue to alter our planet, water quality monitoring becomes more and more essential. With the use of marine robotic vehicles, we become better equipped to prevent such environmental disasters and clean water becomes a much more achievable goal. Clean water for everyone!

For more on Jacob’s project, check out the following link and the following paper, which goes into much more detail!

Networked Autonomous Surface Vehicles for Reservoir Monitoring

Jacob Anderson, Katherine Clark, Jake Faust, Joey Sandoval, Kenneth Tozer III, Eric Hall, Brandon Belcher, Ryan N. Smith, “Development of an Aquatic, Multi-Robot Testbed System for Algorithm Development and Validation”, MTS/IEEE Oceans, Monterey, CA. 2016

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!

BlueROV2 Now Comes More Assembled!

By: Jonathan N., Mechanical Engineer at Blue Robotics

Hey guys! Since we started shipping BlueROV2s in August of 2016, we have been making improvements to the kit to make it easier and less time consuming to assemble. We have been incorporating some of the improvements quietly as we went, but we have made a couple of big changes that we would like you to know about.

First we have updated the assembly instructions to reflect the fact that much less assembly is required on your end. The new instructions are 35% shorter than the old instructions! Here’s everything that has changed. Some of these changes happened months ago and some of them happened recently.

  • ArduSub 3.4 (stable version) comes preinstalled on the Pixhawk.
  • Our recommended parameters come preinstalled on the Pixhawk.
  • ArduSub Raspbian comes loaded on the SD card for the Raspberry Pi 3.
  • The Fathom-X Tether Interface board comes installed on the electronics tray and all of the wiring has been completed.
  • The Raspberry Pi and Pixhawk come installed on the electronics tray with most of the wiring completed.
  • The Pixhawk Power Module is installed and the wiring is completed.
  • The ESCs now come with all of the wiring completed.
  • Three of the thrusters now come with the counter-clockwise propellers pre-installed.
  • The camera, Pixhawk, Raspberry Pi, and Fathom-X connections have all been tested.
  • The SOS Leak Sensor is included and installed onto the electronics tray!

If reading a bunch of bullet points isn’t your thing. Here are some pictures comparing the first batch to what we are doing now.

Original Port Side

New Port Side

Original Starboard Side

New Starboard Side

If you received your kit prior to March, you might still want to use the original instructions, which are still available here.

Checkout the updated documentation page for the new, simplified instructions! If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to post at the related topic on our discussion forums!

ArduSub + ArduPilot is Official!

Hello everyone, we’re pleased to announce that the ArduSub project has merged with ArduPilot! This is a momentous occasion for the ArduSub project, with our two main developers, Jacob and Rusty, both becoming members of the ArduPilot development team. ArduSub is the first new vehicle type since the addition of ArduBoat in 2011, and is the first to take the ArduPilot project underwater!

We’ve been looking forward to seeing this since the start of ArduSub!

There are many benefits of developing ArduSub further as a part of the ArduPilot project:

  • Our code will always be up to date with the latest library developments and bugfixes.
  • Our code will regularly undergo a thorough automated validation, including simulated dives and builds for multiple autopilot platforms.
  • Our build system will be automated, and the latest firmware binary will be automatically updated and made available for download on firmware.ardupilot.org.
  • Our documentation will be updated and migrated to the ArduPilot wiki, and our vehicle parameters will be documented and automatically updated when our code changes.
  • Our contributions to the code will also receive peer reviews from the world-class team of developers of the ArduPilot team.

Further, ArduSub development and the latest ArduSub code will now be found in the ArduPilot repository. ArduPilot and ArduSub are currently undergoing a rapid development process, and we expect to have a new stable release in April with some great new features and support for additional hardware!

Thanks for joining us on this development. If you’re interested in contributing to the ArduSub project, let us know!

If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to post them on the associated forum topic.

New Product! Lithium-ion Battery (14.8V, 18Ah)

Today we’re especially charged up to announce a new product that has been highly requested for some time! We now have available a custom made high capacity lithium-ion battery made specifically for the BlueROV2!

Check out the New Product Video on Youtube:

Lithium-ion Battery (14.8V, 18Ah)

With its massive 18Ah capacity, this 4S 14.8V battery will allow you to run your BlueROV2 for around 4 hours at moderate load, almost twice as long as previously possible with a 10Ah battery. We’re especially proud of the build quality of this battery, the 18650 cells it is comprised of are known to be exceptionally high performing and very safe.

Take a look at the results of our moderate to heavy load case. With gain set to 25% and 4 lights at 1/4 brightness, the battery powered the BlueROV2 for well over 3 hours! With almost constant depth and heading hold interrupted by periods of heavy full throttle use, this represents a realistic in field use.

Moderate Load 18Ah Battery Discharge

The notable high capacity of this battery means that it is subject to stricter shipping regulations than our other products. At over 266Wh, it has almost triple the energy of the maximum allowable laptop battery that can be transported on a passenger aircraft! In addition to a hazardous goods shipping surcharge, at the moment we are also only able to ship this battery to a select number of countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • India
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • United States of America

We’re working on expanding this list to include most of Europe and a few other countries. We hope to be able to do that within a few weeks.

We’ve got some more product announcements coming soon that we think will generate quite the buzz! That’s all for now!

A Big Step Forward for ArduSub

ArduSub is the software at the heart of the BlueROV2. It’s based on the solid foundation of the ArduPilot code, which has been under development for years. ArduSub is open-source, fully featured, and growing rapidly.

Today we want to share some in-progress news that’s been in the works for a long time: we’re working on merging the ArduSub code into the main ArduPilot repository at github.com/ardupilot/ardupilot. What does mean? Well, up to this point, ArduSub has been developed in our own “branch” of the ArduPilot project. By merging into the main project, we’ll join the list of official ArduPilot vehicle types: ArduPlane, ArduCopter, and ArduRover. We’ll continue developing and maintain the code ourselves, but we’ll be assisted by the awesome developers at the ArduPilot organization. This is also allowed us to always be up to date with the latest features, improvements, and bugfixes contributed by the many maintainers.

At the moment, there is a pull-request for merging ArduSub into ArduPilot. You can keep track of that here.

For those of you interested in lots of details, here’s the text of the pull request, which explains a lot of the work we’ve done on ArduSub in the past year:

ArduSub has been in development for just over a year. In that time, we have come a long way. It started by simply copying the ArduCopter directory and poking around to see what we needed to change in order to make our vehicle move around underwater. Once we had accomplished that, and as we became accustomed to the extensive codebase, we progressed by increasing and improving functionality. We had our first stable release right at the end of 2016. We versioned the release as 3.4, in line with where we picked up from Copter. We are currently working on 3.5-dev.

We ship our BlueROV2 running ArduSub on a Pixhawk, and the response from professionals in the marine industry has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to the BlueROV2, we’ve designed ArduSub to be very flexible, and we have DIY ROV users around the world with different ROV designs and motor configurations. ArduSub is thoroughly documented at ArduSub.com, and we have a very active ArduSub Gitter Channel.

From ArduCopter to ArduSub

The first hurdle was in figuring out how to make our vehicle actually move around underwater. The original development platform, the BlueROV1, has 6DOF, and while it can pitch and roll, it does not need to do so in order to translate in the x and y axes. Our solution was to subclass AP_MotorsMatrix with AP_Motors6DOF, overriding add_motor_raw to include the forward and lateral DOF that multicopters lack.

The second hurdle was acheiving the tantalizing prospect of holding depth with a positive or negatively buoyant vehicle. The onboard barometer is in a sealed compartment, and the pressure will obviously not correspond with altitude. The Bar30 pressure sensor, incorporates the MS5837 waterproof pressure sensor from Measurement Specialties, the same people who brought you the familiar MS5611. This sensor has almost exactly the same interface as the MS5611, which was a welcomed coincidence in the very early stages of development, when we were still learning how everything in ardupilot worked. We use the MS5611 driver to drive the external MS5837, and added a few members to the AP_Baro class in order to distinguish between an ‘air’ barometer and a ‘water’ barometer. Fortunately for us (and thanks to you guys), there was already support for multiple barometers and an option to set the primary barometer to use with the EKF. We also added a method to the EKF in order to internally set the baro_alt_noise parameter to a low value, because the pressure measurements underwater are very precise.

We have three supported flight modes, Manual (no stabilization), Stabilize, and Depth Hold. We have made progress in implementing more advanced position-enabled modes; we’ve even executed short missions in auto mode. We have also managed to create a working rudimentary model in SITL.

GPS receivers will not work underwater, so we have added an AP_GPS_MAVLINK class in order to support marine industry localization sensors. This class inherits AP_GPS_NMEA, and works by receiving raw NMEA sentence data from the telemetry connection in the form of the GPS_INJECT_DATA message. This was implemented before the AP_GPS_MAV type was added, and there is some overlap in terms of functionality. The advantage of AP_GPS_MAVLINK over AP_GPS_MAV is that the serial data (in the form of NMEA sentences) from a GPS system connected to a topside or companion computer can be sent directly over the MAVLink connection to the vehicle and parsed by the autopilot, with no need to parse the data at the origin before finally formatting the output as a GPS_INPUT MAVLink message. AP_GPS_MAVLINK also eliminates the requirement of reserving a UART for GPS input.

There are a few other minor additions to note:

  • The AP_JSButton library was added to handle joystick button mapping to various vehicle functions. – It is supported by QGC as well.
  • PosControl and Fence: added a minimum z limit in order to limit maximum depth
  • Added a leak detector library
  • Added a temperature sensor library

Hardware

ArduSub is used in conjunction with a hard-wired telemetry connection over a tether. This connection is implemented via a RS422 interface directly to the autopilot, or via UDP with MAVProxy running on a companion computer. Pilot input is expected to come over MAVLink via MANUAL_CONTROL messages, and RC input is not supported because RC signals will not penetrate water. Support for ArduSub has been integrated into QGroundControl, and we continue to contribute to QGroundControl in order to improve support for ArduSub as well as other features common to all vehicles.

We have tested ArduSub primarily on the Pixhawk 1, but we have some users on other autopilots including the Navio2 and BBBmini.

Where We’re Headed

ArduSub is being actively developed with a full time developer and several contributors around the world. We plan to continue adding new features and improvements and it’s very important to us to stick with ArduPilot’s original goal of being open source and highly capable. We think that ArduSub is already more capable and extensible than most other ROV control systems.

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.