Seattle Storm Drain Rover

Latest update May 29, 2016 Started on November 4, 2014
urban Utilizing my OpenROV "Curiosity" Hull #1265 I hope to continue to build awareness for the storm drain outfalls and CSO's that discharge into Puget Sound.

November 4, 2014
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In The Field

As promised, a quick video of taking said wrench to my go pro's so that they would focus on the mini-domes.

Here is a seekbeak snap of the same stormdrain, with information embedded to make it more of an educational experience

It took a bit of time and the help of a bunch of folks (shoutout to and and a lot of scouring eBay and craigslist for used GoPro Hero 3+'s... But without further adieu I give you our fist 360VR storm drain video!

This one is slightly blurry due to some focus distance issues on the part of the mini-domes used for the V1 360heros underwater system, but that was solved with a youtube video, some advice from another user and a BIG wrench :) But stay tuned, if it rains tomorrow will be out trying to get some crisper footage!

What an interesting project and I applaud your effort to document stormwater pollution and your effort at engaging and educating the community about this issue and ramifications.

Curious about what happens to rain gardens and bioswales over time, read this comprehensive article on the subject and learn whether or not they become mini toxic sites (hint: they don't!)

Continuing to explore new ways to communicate the impact of Polluted Stormwater Runoff, we had the opportunity (huge thanks to to test out a 360VR system to film a recent storm drain excursion and seastar survey. I have not completed stitching the 360 footage together yet but in the meantime here is a short "making of" video for your enjoyment.

Makes everything worth it 100 fold to get letters like this in the mail.... Thank you OpenROV for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of something this amazing!!!!!!


A really quick week in review!

Getting the kids involved is a fantastic idea! I wish more explorers would take the time to do something like this. Showing them how accessible this other world is can also help to inspire the next generation of explorers. I look forward to the day when I'll be getting excited about the places they bring me with their expedition.

Catching up on videos!

Laura, the umbrella is Beautiful! Thanks for walking us through your tips, they are fantastic.

She's right you know, boots on shore launches are key, unless you like to go barefoot in cold water !

Went out to shoot more outfall video today at Cove 1, but had to abort due to waves crashing on the beach. I've learned that for my sanity and the health of my OpenROV that waves = headache and broken bits if you are not careful. Additionally it was a high tide and the wind was blowing debris into the beach. As we learned a couple weeks ago, it is very important to survey your intended site before setting up. Due to the wind direction, I packed it in and headed to Alki Point for hopes of a wee bit of protection from the wind. As it turns out, Constellation Park on Alki Point was in the beautiful leeward side of the point, and I was able to readily deploy and investigate. There is a very large outfall pipe at this site but it is approx 1/4 mile off shore (a long shallow slog in dive gear on the low tide or a long long swim/short scooter ride on the hight tide) so I did not have the tether length to reach the end of it. This would be a perfect test site for a Kayak deployment as soon as the iPad interface is completed.


Is your kayak a sit on top or a sit in kayak? I think sit on top would be more stable, but sit in you might be able to keep things a little drier.

I don't own one as of yet, The kayaking i've done has been on rental kayaks from Alki Kayak Tours and Adventure Center I was going to rent a bit more before buying, that way try both options out. Mostly its hinging on the iPad interface because I have a waterproof bag for my iPad and the wireless router for the homeport that i think i can bag up and keep mostly dry even on a kayak :)

Camera problem solved! It turns out the same wee bug that was solved by zero depth/calibration is now fixed by going to the extra cool "OpenROV Dashboard" and stopping the "OpenROV cockpit" and then Restarting it, then reloading cockpit. and Voila! Camera restarted!

Next little issue I started tinkering with that turned into a bit more work, but at end of day solved a few things, was the power inequality issue in my thrusters. As I tracked down the problem, it turns out one of my ESC's had some pinched wires which were shorting out and making it go a bit haywire. That may have also accounted for some of the other random issues that popped up but then went away. I proceeded to replace the ESC and so far everything seems to be on a more even keel.

When they say to be careful with mounting your lasers please take heed. If they stick out and are not flush, they WILL scratch the inside of your tube, and they WILL bind up a bit putting undue stress on the servo and sooner or later it may stop working. Since i was ordering up little widgets, i replaced the servo was well as it had bound up one time too many.

My recommendation: The bottom line with building your OpenROV is don't try to get all clever until after you've already built it to specifications, following the directions (written) to a t. THEN feel free to upgrade and make things better or whatnot, but many of my issues were from trying to make improvements without actually making sure they needed to be done.

Bathtub RE-trials re done with new ESC, 8 cells instead of 10, and the Joystick. Control is very deft with the gamepad controller. Looking forward to getting it out to the water tomorrow!!

I really like the various videos. I'm a boat captain up here in Homer, Alaska and I'm hoping to incorporate more DIY ROV projects with my various students, clients, researchers. Can you recommend a basic price guide to getting started ? How does the rig do in current ? Thanks for your time.
Cheers, Curt.

bit of a setback yesterday, heading out to shoot more video of a known outfall, but somehow I must have buggered up the latest firmware update. I can get everything working except the camera, unless i put the SD card in the slot on the beagle bone and then everything seems to work, but it takes a long time to start up. Hoping there is an easy fix :)

Changed my floats around a bit, now have one 1/2 cork hot glued on every 6-8' and that seems to work really well. I realize that i need to do that to the whole tether because there is still the risk of catching the portion of tether without floats on rocks/pilings etc. I will be adding more cork's today and then hopefully testing it out just for buoyancy.

Good call on the floats for the tether, the other thing this helps with is maneuverability near the bottom. The tether is slightly negative and if there is drag on the ground it makes maneuvering more difficult. As for the camera, I think you are on the right track with re-uploading the firmware. The other thing that can prevent the camera from appearing is low power on the batteries. One more suggestion: if you go to OpenROV dashboard and "Stop" then "Start" Cockpit, then go refresh your Cockpit tab, the camera will likely pop up. Character :)

Video from Sea Trial #2

That was fantastic! It was great to see your trial run and hear the takeaways from the experience. These are things will be helpful for my first launch. I look forward to seeing more of your reports concerning the ROV and your expedition. Thanks!

Sea Trial #2 became our first successful operation. After a bit of tinkering with buoyancy and trim I was able to follow the rock reef out to a known storm drain outfall and video it. I learned that I need more corkies on the tether to keep it off the rocks. I also learned that the tether is quite strong as was able to tug tug and drive the OpenROV the opposite direction and free it up.


Come join me on the beach and see these storm drains for yourself! This is a large storm drain off Alki Beach.


Makes me wonder how policy would change if the drain vents were above water level.

What's happening in your waterway????
Sewage Overflow Prevention

Protecting Seattle’s Waterways

Every year, rain washes millions of gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the city’s waterways, threatening human and aquatic health and our quality of life. Each year, on average, more than 300 sewage overflows send millions of gallons of raw sewage and stormwater into Seattle’s creeks, lakes, the Ship Canal, the Duwamish River, and Elliott Bay. These combined sewage overflows (CSOs) create significant health and environmental risks.

Because of the chance of Raw Sewage, I don't dive around them during rain storms. This means I don't have any good video or photo's of CSO discharges. Hopefully, with the help of my OpenROV "Curiosity", I can sent her out in my place and investigate the CSO's during rain storms and perhaps capture a discharge in action.

here is an image of me investigating a CSO at Lowman Beach on a dry day, photo by Adrian Collier.


Puget Sound is sick. Polluted runoff* from hard surfaces like paved streets, sidewalks and rooftops is the number one source of toxins entering Puget Sound each year. This toxic mix threatens human health, the economic vitality of the region, and the survivability of the Sound’s most emblematic wildlife including salmon and killer whales.

*Polluted runoff includes: toxic runoff, urban runoff, stormwater pollution, and pollution consequent of combined sewer overflows.

The Solution:
The good news is that we can all adopt behaviors that will reverse the damage to Puget Sound and restore it to health. Our citizens are the stewards of the same streets, sidewalks and rooftops that convey 14 million pounds of pollutants into Puget Sound each year. Pollutants include motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers, grease, paint, heavy metals, and bacteria.

Strategies to stop feeding the Tox-Ick Monster
The most important things we can do to stop polluted runoff are to:

Pick up Pet Waste
Properly Dispose of Waste
Use Car Wash Facilities Instead of Washing Cars on Driveways
Walk, Bike and Ride Public Transit
Plant and Protect Native Evergreens
Practice Natural Yard Care
Keep Water in Your Yard with Rain Barrels, Rain Gardens, and Porous Surfaces


Ordered up a TP-Link TL-MR3040 portable AP wireless router so for less convenient sites can just use my iPad for investigation. Some storm drain outfalls will likely be best accessed by Kayak or small boat, and the idea of my laptop on the boat makes me nervous I already have a waterproof bag for my iPad so its a no-brainer.

read more about setup:

Expedition Background

The Clean Water Act turned 42 this year. When it first took effect, stormwater pollution was not the top priority. What’s known as “point source pollution” — dumping of toxic pollutants from a particular, often industrial site — was the first focus. But in the decades since, stormwater pollution, also known as “non-point source pollution,” has taken the lead when it comes to carrying the most contaminants to U.S. waterways. About 40 percent of U.S. rivers, lakes, and estuaries are not clean enough for fishing or swimming because of pollution from runoff.

And it’s not so surprising, considering the burst in urban development in recent decades. In Washington state alone, the number of people living in the counties that border Puget Sound has more than doubled since 1960. Throughout the United States so much land has been paved that the total amount of impervious surfaces would cover an area about the size of Ohio.

Every time water washes over hard surfaces, it picks up pollutants. Even an area the size of the average homeowner’s roof contributes about 35,000 gallons of runoff each year in the Northwest. And that runoff ends up in the nearest waterway — not the nearest water treatment facility.

“Approximately 50 percent of the region believes that stormwater is treated, is captured and conveyed to a treatment plant of some type. When in fact, this doesn’t take place. Nearly all of this water goes off totally untreated,” says Giles Pettifor, who is part of the municipal stormwater permit team for King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

Utilizing my OpenROV "Curiosity" Hull #1265 I hope to continue to build awareness for the storm drain outfalls and CSO's that discharge into Puget Sound.


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