It all seems a little bit far away. The closest we come to being the first in anything is planting a profile on a new social network before our friends have. Exploration, real exploration is distant, if not another generation’s preoccupation.
Online however, there are pockets of people who think differently. They’re advocating for ‘citizen science’, people with non-science backgrounds, using the resources of the internet to explore their world and share the findings. David Lang and Eric Stackpole are two of these individuals and they want to turn anyone into an underwater explorer. They set out to build a small ROV and posted the design and schematics online for anyone to use and create software for. After fundraising on Kickstarter, they started selling the ROV for less than $1000, incredibly inexpensive in a market where ROVs can go over 10x that. It’s not just cheaper, its size is advantageous.
There are still underwater crevasses to explore, in places that larger crews with boats and bulky equipment could never traverse. Regular people, like you and me could be the first to see what’s below. All we’d have to do is venture out with our underwater robot friend and a laptop in tow. Onsite we’d connect OpenROV to a long wire, right to the USB port in our laptop. We’d set the robot into the water and watch as footage live-streamed into our laptop. OpenROV can descend close to 75 metres and the batteries last around 2 hours.
The duo is also created OpenExplorer, a website were citizen explorers can post their journey of exploration on a Facebook-like newsfeed layout. It’s intriguing to scroll through projects, see the steps of their journey and watch their discoveries in the livestream of their ROV. As the creators state, “We believe that ocean exploration shouldn’t require a research grant, it should require curiosity”. With a laptop and this small little robot, we can all be explorers. And with a two hour battery life, OpenROV will run out of speed right when it’s time for us to have a well deserved lunch.