Chesapeake Open Expedition I

Latest update May 7, 2015 Started on December 13, 2014
The Chesapeake Bay is littered with historical shipwrecks spanning from the 1600s to the present day. The Bay is also host to many miles of salt marsh, harboring a vast community of marine life. This expedition will entail an initial exploration of a select area of the bay, assessing water quality, ecology, and wreck identification. The first day will involve using an ROV to collect water samples and CTD data while cataloging local marine life. The second day will explore a selected shipwreck involving identification and assessment of the structure and having a great time. The primary mission will be to assess the ROV performance, nishkin bottle, CTD sensor and archeological camera utilizing polynomial texture mapping for surface reflectance. This technique allows for detail illumination providing feature discovery better than using conventional lighting techniques. A call to all citizen scientists, come and join us!

December 13, 2014
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In The Field

Much has been learned. Though no shipwrecks were explored this time on this expedition, far more was gained in technical knowledge and improvements for both vehicle, software, and logistics. A more substantial expedition is in the works and we will post plans soon.

We will be posting more on our vehicle modifications, software, and payloads soon! CTD+, water sampler, and more!

Make and make often. Make the world you want, and not the one you were given!
-- Jim


And one more!


Great photos! These in particular speak well to the scale of the ROVs. Looking forward hearing a comparison of how the two vehicles operate!

Great results! Much progress has been made and we had a great dive day with both our kits. As a reminder, Eiodothea Mark II was a hybrid standard square frame ROV with the OpenROV control bits. The ROV handled very well, even though looking like some behemoth.
We had some problems which I we contribute to leakage from poor potting of the wires going into the cylinder so we had some water intake and did short the BBB. We haven't checked the BBB out yet (after washing it with fresh water and drying) and we had to rush of to AUVSI, but I suspect that all is well.

In addition, we used a 4350mAh LiPO immersed in mineral oil, which worked perfectly, in a gasketed batter box we built from a simple Radio Shack project case.

Test dives went swimmingly and we learned quite a great deal. We will end this mission blog and start afresh soon.

Thanks for following! We have made good progress on our CTD+ and will have that on a NEW ROV with in the next month for two. More to come!


Eidothea Mark II is 95% complete, and baring any systems check issues tonight and tomorrow we will be diving Sunday afternoon, a happy Easter indeed!

You may ask, why such the delay? Good question. Well, the winter here in Virginia was slightly harsher than I was expected, plus, the same old culprit, time.

Anyway, Eidothea will be diving shortly and video will follow. We will fly the ROV at a collaborator's marina on the beautiful Chesapeake.

Upon completion of our check dive, we will finalize our wreck dive location and polish up the CTD+. We've rebuilt the sinewave generator and amplifier for the salinity probe and feel it is ready to be mounted in the Otterbox containing our Arduino data logger with the temperature, pressure and ambient sensors. We expect this to take an additional week of wrap up and testing prior to mounting the kit onto the ROV. we'll get a full write up soon.

As a reminder, Eidothea Mark II is a cross between an OpenROV and a homebuilt, bilge driven PVC platform. So this should be interesting.


Wow Jim, look at that beast! I'm curious to see how it drives.

Hi Kevin!

Yes, yes indeed. I suspect once we do a buoyancy check, minus any payloads, we'll remove one of the floats. The platform was always designed to be a test rig for whatever, and the previous configuration had 4 heavy weight bilge motors and it was indeed a sloth. Beast is an appropriate name. I will certainly let you know how it goes. Future designs we plan on using different plastics, and a new configuration. But this kit has proved pretty robust.

Updates from our last planning meeting:

ROV modifications and redefinition of mission. As we've mentioned before, testing out equipment whilst exploring a region of the Chesapeake has been our two main points of this expedition. Learning from our delay and thinking about the adventure has produced the following modifications and clarifications:

  1. Vehicle design: As with most planned expedition, there exists a list of important outcomes that best fulfill expectations. we've decided that testing a newly designed CTD and attaching an Oxygen sensor to a new ROV platform would best serve our exploration and scientific expectations. This brings us to the need for a slightly larger ROV, able to hold both the CTD and O2 sensor payloads.

Eidothea Mark II:

It's a simple redesign from the 4 bilge motor Eidothea. However, we've swapped out the top side bits, i.e. topside power and control tether, with the OpenROV controller, motors, and tether. They are just better designs. Coupled with the irrepairable damage for ROV #411, this solution solved two problems with the expedition. Vehicle readiness and payload capacity.

  1. CTD: For some reason, a home grown sine-wave generator with stable signal and reliable operation has proved vary difficult. We are now going to try out an Arduino Due that gives us a DAC or Digital / Analogue Converter. I'll post more on this when we have something more substantial.

  2. Archeological Camera: Finally some movement on this front. We are reviewing the software for Polynomial texture Mapping, plus umbrella design to attach to the Eidothea for trial runs Mid-Feb.

Next Steps:

  1. Vehicle finalization and wet testing - jan 31st
  2. CTD topside Testing - Jan 23rd
  3. Location finalization - Feb 7th
  4. Boat selection and Planning/safety Meeting - Feb 8th

More to come!


Wow. I think it's so key that you are making some changes based on experience. I think sometimes, when a situation arises where something breaks or doesn't work, we're tempted to just give up. It's lovely so share the story of making changes and pushing forward again! Thanks!

Thanks! Most of the group are NASA engineers and VIMS researchers so that work ethos prevails. We hope to have some great posts in the next month and onward

Mission Updates: Delayed!

The best laid plans of mice and it were. As can be guessed, we've been delayed due to both logistical and technical issues, forcing us to reschedule. Tentative target is Feb '15.

More to come in regards to equipment updates and build schedule.

Have a great holiday!


Still excited! Also, lots of CTD momentum building...

I'd like to learn more about how you plan do the polynomial texture mapping. I'm not very familiar with it but from what I read it sound like something I might like to try.

Michael, I apologize for not responding earlier. Absolutely. Once we start implementing the system I'll be sure to post about the design built and deployment. More to come soon!

Updates: Additional ROVs

As mentioned, two other ROVs will be tested and, hopefully, deployed during the Dec13th expedition. One variant is a simple HomeBuilt ROV design, PVC construction. Eidothea, pictured, utilizes a ttl camera, 4 converted bilge motors, modified high intensity LEDs for illumination, a cat5 tether, and ample room for a CTD and water sampler payload. Power is supplied down the tether, and 100 ft. of cat5 attenuates the voltage supply significantly. That being said, I will hopefully be testing a heavy duty marine battery over the next two weeks to confirm tether applicability. Target max depth ~40 ft. with this platform, so a 60ft. tether may be a better solution.


Nice! I love those designs. Excited to see how they all work in tandem.

Whoa! looking forward to see three rovs in action!

You wouldn't happen to have room on this expedition for more, would you? I came across this project (and OpenROV in general) when I was doing some research on underwater ROVs for work yesterday, and this all looks incredibly exciting. I especially like your idea to do a bit of local archaeology and check out some ship wrecks. I work as a software engineer on NASA's Autonomy Incubator project and have a lot of experience writing software for these sorts of systems, so if there is any way that I could be of service let me know!

Preparation: Some past development in regards to setting up the CTD+ and the Nishkin bottle. Coupled with ROV damage from the "oh so careful and professional movers" during my Virginia relocation, the preparation stage for this expedition has taken on an additional level of complexity. ROV 411 has had better days. There were also a number of build issues (long story, had a student group work on it and they skip some steps...added their own interpretation of the instructions, etc), so I've been rebuilding the kit in hopes for a Dec 13th deployment. I also have to additional ROVs that I build prior to the OpenROV kit. I'll post update images next week. As a primer:

Image: CTD+ prototype.

The CTD sinewave generator has been giving me a number of issues. I've gone to using the Arduino as the sine wave generator, while recording data to the SD card from the sensors output. The redesign will be finished this weekend, followed by testing and validation next week. The amplifier and sensor circuit will stay the same as in previous iterations.

The Nishkin bottle is a much simpler device. The open ended tubular design uses a solenoid to release holding bands for the endcaps, triggered from a topside signal.

ROV overviews to follow.


I like the idea of using a Nishkin bottle for collecting water samples. I'll be interested in seeing your design. Are you thinking of a single solenoid activated bottle or multiple bottle arrangement?

Using a single bottle per ROV at the moment. I want to keep the payloads small. There are actually 3 ROVs that are participating. 1 OpenROV #411 and 2 PVC prototypes of a modified SeaPerch and SeaWolf. I'll be posting about them soon.

Expedition Background

The primary mission is to assess a number of technologies for citizen science ROV platforms. Water sampling will be done with a solenoid actuated water collection tube. The CTD consists of a salinity sensor, temperature sensor, pressure sensor and ambient light sensor. The collected data is collected and stored on board the ROV, correlated post mission and will be posted for the community to access. The archaeological camera consists of a hemisphere LEDs with a single camera in the center top of a shell construction. The LEDs illuminate a selected surface one at a time and offline software stitch the images and allow for surface and reflectance characteristics to be modified, bringing out salient characteristics of a target. This technique has been used to discover worn writing and various other archaeological points on interest for land expedition. This will be the first marine implementation of this system that we are aware of.
A selected wreck will be then explored, testing camera and lighting techniques. The OpenROV kit and an additional home-built ROV will be used.

Come and join us!

Wow! A niskin bottle and CTD! I can't wait to follow along! Did you develop these pieces of equipment yourself or or they off the shelf from YSI/Atlas...other?

What OpenROV hull number do you have? It's fun to follow where each kit goes.

Erika, Thanks for the comments. The CTD and Niskin are of my own design. Well, really just modifications on what others have done. I've posted articles on them on the OpenROV site and on I've made changes since last year and will repost soon. Thanks again!

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