T-Shirts and Stickers Shipped + More Updates!

We apologize for the long delay since our last update but we promise that we have been working hard to get your thrusters to you as soon as possible!

Where are we at with that?

Well, there’s good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

The Bad News

A few days ago we were notified by one of our suppliers that they are delayed an additional two weeks before they can ship our order. That’s a bummer because we have everything else ready for assembly and the delay will push our delivery schedule back a few weeks.

Right now we are expecting to deliver the first batch of thrusters in the second half of November. This will only affect people who ordered thrusters with no speed controllers or with the Basic ESCs. Thrusters ordered with the BlueESC will not be affected.

The Good News

Fortunately, there’s a lot more good news than bad news!

T-Shirts and Stickers for “Supporter” and “Founder” Reward Levels

Most T-shirts and stickers were shipped on Wednesday! Many of you have probably already received them. There are few people who haven’t provided their shipping addresses yet and we will follow up with them directly through email. If you haven’t responded to the survey please do so!

Static Thruster Testing at Depth

We were out in the Santa Monica Bay this week testing the SolarSurfer. While we were out there, we performed a static (unpowered) depth test of the thruster to determine if there would be any structural damage to the thruster at great depths. We lowered it to a depth of 800 ft (250 m) for a few minutes. There was no damage whatsoever and no change in performance after the test.

800 ft is really nothing compared to the full depth of the ocean. Fortunately, we are working with a testing facility to test the thruster to full ocean depth of 11 km. It will be a few months before we get the results but we are very excited to see what the thruster can do when pushed to the limits.

BlueESC

We now have a prototype of the BlueESC squeezed into the form factor necessary to mount in the front of the thrusters. And it works! It’s got a few bugs to iron out, but nothing major. We’ve tested it to full load with the T100 and will test with the T200 prototypes in a week or two.

The production BlueESCs will be built by CircuitHub, which is a very cool service for PCB manufacturing and assembly. We will do final assembly (soldering leads, LEDs, and potting in the aluminum enclosure) here in Redondo Beach.

T200 Thruster

The T200 prototypes will be tested in the coming weeks. We have the stators in hand – we’re just waiting for 3D printed parts to arrive for testing. If we’re happy with the design, we’ll order the injection molding tooling and parts immediately.

We’ll share results as soon as we are able to test the prototypes!

BlueROV

After the Kickstarter campaign we decided to redesign the central water tight container (WTC) of the BlueROV for extra security and reliability at depth. We’ve gone through a few design iterations to reach the best design.

We started with a flat gasket seal on each side of the tube with rods to clamp the end caps on securely and compress the gaskets. This works alright but requires the ends of the tubes to be very smooth to avoid leaks. We’ve abandoned that design in favor of a double O-ring design. There are a few advantages to this design:

  • No need for rods to hold the end caps
  • Double O-rings provide better leak protection
  • The end-caps now support the tube for better performance at depth

Additionally, we came up with a clever way to pass connections through the WTC so that they are removable. It doesn’t require expensive connectors! We’ll share more details when we are closer to shipment.

SolarSurfer

We did a big test of the SolarSurfer this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t go exactly as planned, but we learned a lot, which is why this is still listed under good news. 😉

We were attempting to send to the SolarSurfer from Los Angeles to Monterey, CA. The trip, as planned, is approximately 300 miles and would take several weeks to complete. We launched on the 14th but (literally) hit a snag on the second day of the trip. One of the thrusters sucked in a piece of sea grass and jammed. Fortunately it was still close enough that we were able to recover it!

We think this will be fairly easy to fix with some plastic mesh stretched over the front of the thruster and secured with the four outer screws. Since this would be useful to all of you, we will post instructions if it works. Anybody have any other clever ideas for seaweed avoidance?

What to Expect Next

Here’s where we think we are at in terms of schedule and deliveries.

Approx. November 20th: Shipment of the first hundred T100 Thrusters and Early-Bird OpenROV Compatible Kits. This covers all early-birds who didn’t order the pre-installed BlueESC or T200s.

Approx. December 12th: Shipment of remaining T100 Thrusters that do not have the pre-installed BlueESC plus the remaining OpenROV Compatible Kits.

Approx. December 30th: Shipment of BlueROVs that do not include the pre-installed BlueESC.

January: Shipment of BlueESCs and shipment of the the T100s and BlueROVs with BlueESCs pre-installed.

February-March: Shipment of T200 Thrusters.

This is all more or less in line with our original schedule when you include the delays for BlueESCs and T200s. If you have an urgent need for your reward to be delivered sooner than shown above, and you haven’t talked to us already, shoot us an email at info@bluerobotics.com and we’ll see what we can do.

That’s all for now! Please email us or leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts! We’d love to hear from you.

SolarSurfer: Hackaday Prize Semifinalist!

Our SolarSurfer, the project that inspired the T100 Thruster, was recently selected as a finalist for The Hackaday Prize. Judging just began to select the finalists. Please check out our project and vote at Hackaday.io.

We’re planning a big mission for the SolarSurfer in October! We’re going to send it from Los Angeles to Monterey, CA – over 300 miles and 2-3 weeks of travel. Here’s the planned path:

SolarSurfer Path to Monterey

Stay tuned for more updates!

SolarSurfer: Ocean Test No. 3

SolarSurfer in the ocean off the coast of Los Angeles

Two weeks ago we tested the SolarSurfer in the ocean for the third time.

We were fortunate to have access to a boat for two days and we successfully completed an overnight trip and covered 20 km.

Day One:

The boat was loaded with tools and the SolarSurfer and we headed out to sea, stopping about 1.5 miles offshore to launch the SolarSurfer. We spent a few hours debugging some small problems before we got everything working correctly.

Once we were confident that is was working properly and that it was clear of boat traffic near shore, we turned ourselves around and headed home for the night. The SolarSurfer stayed in the ocean and continued on its waypoint path out to sea.

Night:

By 6 in the evening, the power from the sun had reduced to almost nothing. At this point, the SolarSurfer had traveled about 6 km in 3 hours. The thruster automatically shut off and the SolarSurfer started to drift for the night. We ended up with a really interesting plot view of the surface currents that you can see in the map below. At first, it drifted towards shore and we were worried it would run aground before the morning, but then looped around. By the morning, it was fairly close to where it had started to drift.

Full screen here.

Day Two:

The SolarSurfer “woke up” and continued on its journey at approximately 8:30 in the morning, despite thick cloud cover. It continued its path westward until we turned it around with an updated waypoint command. We intercepted it with the boat around 11:30 am after it had covered another 4 km. Success.

Seaweed Entanglement Testing:

One of the risks we are most concerned about for the LA to Hawaii trip is seaweed entanglement. We tested some seaweed removal maneuvers that could be performed autonomously if necessary. The SolarSurfer was manually driven into a large piece of floating kelp and then driven in circles to entangle the kelp around the keel. In five tests, we were always able to clear the kelp from the keel by maneuvering forward and backward several times.

Seaweed tangled around the keel during testing. Removal was fairly easy.

Stay tuned for our next test and upcoming launch to Hawaii!

The Kickstarter is Live! Let’s do this.

In case we haven’t made it clear to you through our mailing list, Twitter, Facebook, or our home page:

The T100 Thruster Kickstarter is Live Now!

You’ve got from now until September 11th to back us, but don’t wait. There are early-bird reward levels that will only last so long. We need all the help we can get to launch the thruster and to start enabling the field of marine robotics to just about anyone! Your help means the world to us, so back us now!

24 Hours to Launch!


to:

We’re in the final hours before the T100 Thruster Kickstarter campaign launches!

We’ve made a few small changes to the campaign since we launched the preview last week. Here’s the important changes:

  • The rewards were all rounded to make the math easier for multiple quantities. The Early Bird Thrusters are now $90 each and the Regular Thrusters are $100 each.
  • We added a BlueROV Kit Reward Level. This includes the frame, thrusters, and ESCs and requires some basic assembly. You still need to provide the electronics. We recommend a 3DR APM2.6 Autopilot and a Raspberry Pi.
  • We are now including forward/reverse electronic speed controllers (ESCs) with any reward level for $20 each. They can handle up to 20 amps and are great for the T100s.

We also added some great data charts to the Kickstarter page and to the thruster. Check it out.

Remember, it launches at 8:30am Pacific TOMORROW.

– Rusty, Joe, and Josh

Announcing the T100 Thruster Kickstarter!

Today we are excited to announce a Kickstarter Campaign for our first product, the T100 Thruster.

The T100 is an underwater electric motor and propeller that is powerful, resistant to saltwater corrosion, and extremely affordable at $99 each. Before now, you would have to spend $500-$3,000 to buy a thruster, making marine robotics an exclusive field reserved for government, institutions, and large companies. We hope to change that.

The Kickstarter campaign will launch on August 12th, 2014 at 8:30am Pacific, but you can check out a preview of it right now:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/847478159/913072768?token=fec31ec5

Please feel free to let us know what you think and spread the word! We need your help to make this happen!

SolarSurfer: Ocean Test No. 2

If you haven’t seen it, we are building an autonomous solar-powered surface vessel with the BlueRobotics Thrusters. Check out more details at: Hackaday Project Site: SolarSurfer.

We completed the second test of the SolarSurfer in the ocean. Last time, we only had an RC receiver and we drove it around manually. This time, it had a full blown autopilot with GPS, compass, and an IMU.

We stored at set of waypoints in the autopilot’s memory. When switched into autonomous mode (via the RC transmitter) it automatically navigated between the waypoints. Amazingly, it was totally successful on the first try. Check out the map image that shows the waypoint path and the two test runs. There’s an interactive version here.