For a robot the size of a shoebox, OpenROV has made quite a splash in the submersible community in the past year. Just after MakerFaire 2012, where we saw OpenROV for the first time, it and its creator Eric Stackpole showed up in the New York Times along with a bold proclamation about the open source project: "It could change the future of ocean exploration."
Those weren't Stackpole's words, but you can bet he believes them--his quest for a sub-$1000 exploration bot recently landed him on the cover of Make Magazine, and OpenROV was back at this year's Maker Faire. Last August, Stackpole and his partner David Lang raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter for the OpenROV. What's surprising, considering how successful OpenROV was in 2012, is just how far the ROV has advanced in the past year.
"Even when we were doing that expedition to the Hall City Cave that ended up in the Times, we didn't really have a robot that was fully functional," says Stackpole at Maker Faire 2013. "You know, this is a maker product. It was on its way, there were some things that could work. We could drive it around, but the video feed wasn't reliable. Now we're at a point where we have everything we had dreamed of. Live video streaming, we can do high definition, it's going up to a computer. It's functional. This is the part where it really gets exciting. This is where we're going to start exploring, really exploring, places that haven't been seen before."
Stackpole is a fountain of enthusiasm, but he's earnest when he says things like "this is the part where it really gets exciting," he means it. His obsession with ocean exploration came while he worked at NASA as a mechanical engineer, and last year he reduced his hours to devote more time to OpenROV.
Just in the past few months, the OpenROV project has made a major breakthrough.