OpenROV: How the Search for Buried Treasure Led to Underwater Drones

To democratize underwater exploration, OpenROV creates low-cost ROVs so that anyone can afford to explore.

OpenROV began when two friends set out to explore the bottom of an underwater cave rumored to contain buried treasure. But this journey turned into an innovative career when co-founders Eric Stackpole and David Lang realized that a much larger community had places they wanted to explore. In the last five years, OpenROV has grown into a cutting-edge hardware company and community of DIY explorers who are working together to create more accessible, affordable, and awesome tools for underwater exploration.

The Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) industry centers around defense and offshore oil industries. The tools are huge, expensive, and difficult to operate and deploy, often requiring large teams and highly trained professionals. Much like the aerial drone industry or the personal computer’s emergence, OpenROV’s approach is to get the same capabilities in smaller, lower-cost, and easy-to-use packages.

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To democratize underwater exploration, OpenROV creates low-cost ROVs so that anyone can afford to explore. With an active community, OpenROV also provides a platform from which discoveries can be shared and ultimately inspire others to do the same.

Their first product was a DIY kit to create ROVs. But to further lower the barrier to entry to users who might not have the time or know-how to assemble an ROV themselves, OpenROV created Trident.

Open ROV Product Highlight: Trident Spearheads a New Market

Trident is the latest underwater drone from OpenROV. Trident is a low-cost ROV that can stream and record live HD video from up to 100m deep. For convenience, it is controlled via smartphone or tablet, requires no assembly, and needs little maintenance. It is the first in a new class of tools of this nature, and Trident has already found large-scale success in Kickstarter and pre-order campaigns with $815,601 pledged by 1,324 backers.

Trident required tremendous efforts on CAD design tools for mechanical parts and injection molding processes. Large amounts of software and firmware development were necessary to create a user-friendly and mass-marketable underwater drone.


The Explorers Who Started It All

David Lang, co-founder, is a writer, 2013 TED Fellow, and former manager of OCSC Sailing School in Berkeley where he helped hundreds of students learn to sail and led sailing adventures around the world.

Eric Stackpole is the original designer of OpenROV’s products. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University’s mechatronics master’s program, former NASA employee, and is known among his friends for using telerobots to attend classes remotely in college.

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The whole operation of OpenROV is run by fewer than 20 people and heavily focused on engineering. As they grow, they hope to add more computer vision and machine learning competencies to their products and develop strong marketing and business development units.

You can find out more and access the design files and documentation to build your own OpenROV here


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