Wednesday, August 27, 2014

OpenExplorer AND A TEST DIVE

The founders of the OpenROV project contacted me a little while back about posting on their site,, to document our adventures with the ROV.  I was hesitant to post anything there until we had a working ROV, so for a long time I haven't moved on the idea.   For anyone that has been reading this blog for a while, you know this isn't out of lack of desire.  We have put so much work into this project, and have had our fair share of setbacks, so it hasn't always been easy to keep the fire burning on this. As someone new to the maker world, I wasn't sure what to expect but I definitely wasn't expecting this much work.   But our hard work has finally paid off.   I can now say that after tonight, I am so happy to announce that we are finally up and running!   We completed a full underwater test and everything on the ROV is working!   Lights, lasers, motors, all works.  The motor programming stuck.  The lasers toggled on and off accurately ( funny story, we are idiots and thought the lowecase l for lasers was a forward slash, so they were working the whole time we thought they were broken) and even the depth hold command is working accurately.  We are finally ready to rock!!!!!

Next step is to practice deploying and flying in a pool. Video of the ROV flying in action to come.  I just couldn't wait to share!  Really really exciting things to come now that we are up and running, thank you so much to our friends and family that have encouraged us along the way and to the new friends that have come along and followed our adventures!  So in conclusion, we are now live at on the site and will finally move from the building to adventuring phase.

Thanks for reading so far, and here's to great things to come!

Ready to dunk

Video feed is up

Here goes nothing...

There she blows!





Live feed from the camera after dunking.  Still working!

More testing.  Still working like a champ.


Using washers provided by Danny as ballast.  They work brilliantly, and are relatively easy to adjust.  Awesome!

One last shot of her in the water.  We're done!


  1. Proud of you son , especially for the perseverance against all the problems. Now go find something remarkable.

  2. while the concept of using an ROV is novel and interesting, you do realize that the cave system has been fully explored, surveyed, and mapped by divers from the Jacob's Well Exploration Project.

  3. the cave system map is available for public viewing at the Hays County Parks JW Nature Center.

    1. I guess they did it perfect and noone should ever come along later and question if there is more to be found, right?


      Is there an online version of the map you are eluding to? We couldn't find anything outside of The Zara Research PDF showing the cave map which isn't in great detail.

      Thanks anyway for the "constructive" comments.

  4. Your stated goal of building a ROV "that could be used to explore Jacob's Well safely" is an insult to the qualified scientists and explorers who have safely conducted hundreds of research dives at JW over the past 10+ years. No qualified cave diver has ever died in the spring cave and there have been no fatalities at the site since the 1970s. Your work in the Open ROV project is interesting, but please don't represent it as a pressing "need".

  5. Hi Chuck, thanks for your comment. I'm not sure how exploring these caves with a robot became an insult, or where it was stated that this was a pressing need. This is meant to be a fun citizen science project and I've tried to present it as such from the beginning. It sounds like you may be knowledgeable about the cave system, if you have information to share it would be welcome here.

  6. apparently, this ROV team has made no attempt to identify previous research conducted at JW. in addition to survey and mapping efforts already completed, a comprehensive biological audit has been conducted by Dr. Jean Krejca / Zara Environmental.

  7. One of the first pieces of information we reviewed before we even started building the ROV was the report you reference. I'm not sure where the assumption that we're unfamiliar with it comes from, but thanks for sharing it here, I'm sure that anyone reading the blog will find it interesting as well.

  8. It's the word "safely" that implies what the current explorers are doing is unsafe.

  9. Hi James. For years legitimate cave research has been hindered by the portrayal of cave diving as being an extremely dangerous activity, and any time I see public references to cave diving fatalities and discussion of cave diving "safety" I have cause for concern. The years-long battle for open access to JW is hindered when laypersons portray the resource as dangerous. If you wish to test your ROV in Jacob's Well for evaluation purposes that is great, but please don't imply that our important work there in some way compromises safety. As your project progresses you may want to contact Hays County so that you can begin the process of submitting your application for a research permit at the site. In the future I would be pleased to discuss with you detailed specifics of the cave system which may prove invaluable in negotiating the complex passages of the cave system.

  10. Well, now I can understand the reaction, but we meant no disrespect. As none of us are skilled cave divers we meant our own safety to explore from the safety of dry land.

  11. what is the estimated range and depth rating of the ROV?

  12. permitted divers have collected hundreds of hours of video footage from within the cave system. it is unclear what new perspectives an ROV could provide.

  13. Our build is rated for 100 meters right now, but we've seen some of the other OpenROV guys push 200 meters for depth. Latency along the tether becomes an issue at increased ranges (frankly it is already an issue on our 100 meter tether) so that may limit us, but we'll know more once we start pushing things. When we reviewed the mappings of the chamber system back in the planning stages of the project, we didn't see anything mapped for the 4th chamber and beyond, so our ultimate goal is to find out what's back there. As of right now, since we're all clearly amateurs and the project is an in-progress Open Source one, we're not quite there yet, so we're still looking for a successful first dive before we get ahead of ourselves. But long term that 4th chamber and beyond is our goal.

  14. Even if we don't find anything, or are unable to provide a new perspective, that attitude is antithetical to the project and to citizen science in general. It may end up being nothing more than an interesting project that got our friends, families, and coworkers interested in robotics and cave exploration, and if that's the case, I think we'll be OK with that.

  15. Best of luck to you and your group James. If for nothing more than a fun project and perhaps some pure science along the way I wish you success. Also note that the "4th chamber" you refer to is in fact a complex passage that involves several significant ups, downs, twists, and turns that are difficult enough for a free-swimming diver to traverse. Negotiating them with a tethered ROV would be nearly impossible as the tether would undoubtedly become entangled. Also recognize that cave divers also deploy permanent safety guidelines throughout the cave to aid in our safe passage that could easily become entangled with a ROV. I'm just trying to assure that your team knows what pitfalls they face in this endeavor.