The Project

An underwater robot (ROV) for recreation, inspection, and competition.


There is a need for an alternative to human divers for the tasks of underwater boat hull and structure inspection, lost object retrieval, and recreational underwater exploring. Remotely operated vehicles (ROV) are often used for these tasks, but most commercially available ROVs are large, expensive, and require extensive support equipment. Our aim is to create a lightweight, compact, economical ROV that can be controlled from a Windows based laptop.


ROVs vary greatly in size and capabilities, but most have a few things in common. Most remotely operated vehicles:

  • Are unmanned
  • Are neutrally buoyant (or very close to neutrally buoyant)
  • Have a tether (or umbilical cable) running to a control system on the surface
  • Have thrusters for vertical, forward, and rotational motion
  • Have at least one camera
  • Have at least one light

Our ROV will meet all of these criteria and more.

Proposed Program

We intend to design a lightweight, compact ROV that makes these goals without losing necessary functionality. We have done thorough research of the ROVs that are available on the market now. We can save money by eliminating some of the features and capabilities that are not needed by our target market. For example, limiting the depth capabilities to around 100 feet will make design, manufacturing, and testing much cheaper. We also intend to reduce costs and transportation size of our product by eliminating the control system and instead using a regular Windows-based laptop computer.

We have also spent a lot of time researching thrusters, cameras, lights, and electronic components. We realize that will we not have time to redesign everything ourselves, so it is important for us to keep in mind what products are available and affordable as we design our ROV.

We're in active discussion of mechanical design concepts for the ROV. The ROV should be neutrally buoyant in freshwater and slightly positively buoyant in saltwater, although weights can be attached to balance the ROV in saltwater. The weight and buoyancy should be distributed for maximum stability, with the tank being on top, as it is unlikely that we will use gyroscope or acceleration sensors to detect and correct unstable conditions.

Design of the frame and buoyancy tank is critical for a successful ROV product. The design should keep in mind:

  • Efficient use of space (18" L x 12" W x 10" H)
  • Light weight (Around 25-30lbs)
  • Low resistance in currents - Streamlined
  • Stylish design

Although our ROV could be fully functionally without meeting these criteria; usability, performance, and marketing will be much better with a good design.

The mechanical construction of the product is scheduled to begin in Spring 2007, but we intend to begin purchasing and testing of the electronics systems this fall in order to be better prepared for the spring semester.

March 2007 Update: As you can probably tell, this was copied and pasted right out of a report we turned in last semester. Still, it's interesting to compare our proposal to our actual ROV in progress. Maybe we'll rewrite this page when we write our spring ME191 report.