Best way to make money with a small scout class ROV?

Now that i’ve very nearly got a working rov, I need to figure out what to do with it to hopefully have it make a bit of money on the side to maybe someday pay for Sonar or USBL positioning or whatnot. Most of the ROV’s i see in use are either owned by companies or governments, universities, or like me, the handful owned by people that just wanted to build a ROV to say they did, or explore, etc.

I live on the west coast of the US, up in the columbia river area of Washington state. There is exactly one possible treasure wreck (down near 900 feet deep) and maybe a handful of others of interest to archeology in the area, so it’snot likely that I will be in a position to discover something that brings fame or fortune that way, So what do the rest of you do to make money with these? I was thinking something along the lines of marina anchor inspection or maybe culvert inspections? There would be some logistical issues for me to figure out with the latter since most of the culverts are owned by the agency I work for, so that wouldn’t be ideal. Boat hull inspection might be useful, but I don’t know if it would pay anything. Lost stuff retrieval might be useful occasionally, but those would be few and far between I imagine. Maybe a university with grant money might rent use of a ROV? I dunno if I want others driving my toy though.

Anyone know of any good ideas they are willing to share?

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Aqua-culture uses them a lot.


I’ve had ok-ish luck breaking out into assisting with documentary work. It doesn’t make me any money (yet), but it’s rewarding to see what you have done on TV. I had my old OpenROV with BR thrusters on the Travel Channel with Deep Sea Mysteries and I’ve worked on two more undisclosed shows.

I’m also being interviewed here shortly by my local paper on my free-time exploration work. So yeah, no fortune just yet, but there is a little fame out there.


Hi Tim, we have so far successfully serviced:

  • aquaculture
  • infrastructure companies
  • research

As an example, we conducted a survey of an anchor spread for a fish farm. We where able to inspect 10 anchors @ 70m depth in one workday. Normally this would either have taken several days or not have been done at all.

We also recently carried out a pre-lay survey for a new cooling water pipeline for a gas company. This would normally require expensive survey vessels with multibeam sonars and divers. Because it was shallow water we could do the job from a 40 foot motor yacht at a fraction of the price.

And last Sunday we conducted an expedition collecting environmental data with our EnviroSense IO board and sensors, which is to be correlated with data collected from a satellite passing over our head at the same time.

All these jobs are paid jobs. Our goal is not to make money on providing services ,but rather as a proof of concept, hoping to convince these companies to buy our ROVs, but, we have charged a decent price for each job which is sort of getting me into the idea of providing inspections as a service.

Other fields that require regular underwater inspections:

  • Port facilities (including marinas)
  • Yacht owners (specially WAFI’s / regatta)
  • Marine insurance brokers
  • Ship owners (DNV now accepts ROV inspections for ships with IWS notation, suppose the same might apply for ABS)
  • Dam operators
  • Terminal Operators
  • And the list just goes on and on

My suggestion would be to look in your area, see where divers are used, check what they are charging, and there is your benchmark. Or maybe even team up with a diving contractor: you can do the inspection with the ROV, they do the intervention (if any).

Hope that is of any help and that’l give you a few ideas on how you can offer your services in your area!

Good luck!!!

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Roy - Just curious was this work done with BR ROV or other systems? All just visual or other sensors as well?

Yupp, all of this done with BlueROV2.

So, at the end of the day it’s not so much about the vehicle per se, but more about your capability of understanding the clients needs. I consider previous experience in any maritime field is a huge plus, but you can read up on this stuff too. Having said that. The BlueROV2 is without a doubt the best vehicle out there under 10k, maybe even under 100k.

We normally offer a first inspection or demo for free. That is also a great way of learning more about the specific client’s needs.
Before accepting a job, make sure you understand the client’s HSEQ requirements, as you might get a few surprises (insurance, PPE, and so on). In many industries, HSEQ is the single most demanding aspect of any process.

Also, having redundancy on the job is a huge plus, because many times the ROV part is not the most expensive part of the project for the client. Having to abort a job due to ROV malfunction never looks great, so if you can invest in 2 vehicles and bring both then that is a good piece of mind for yourself and the client.

Hope that helps.

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Thanks for the info, all great points.

We come from the commercial UAV aerial industry, having grown out of hobby to commercial over the last number of years and there are many parallels between how the UAV market has evolved and what BR is doing for ROVs. It totally changes the market with making access to systems cheaper and easier. As such it changes the market a great deal. It makes entry into existing uses easier but also opens areas that before never thought of ROV use due to the limited available systems and pricing.

The BR systems and components are game changers. Granted we are a distributor so perhaps a bit biased :slight_smile:

Having experience in related markets is a define plus. You need to bring something to the table beyond just owning a ROV. Clients want a problem solved, an ROV is merely a tool. Too many that got into the UAV industry were new to everything and merely taking aerial images with no idea as to what to do within them or the skills to handle the data. Now we are seeing more focus on data and imagery analysis with the UAV being just one of many tools. So on the ROV side you need to use it as a means to solve a problem, provide something other than just “ROV services” - inspections with a detailed report, and related.

One not on the TV/movie side we have found is to be careful on discounting your services or working for “credit”. This is a game played too often in that industry and often leads no where. Credit is nice but doesn’t put food on the table. And there is always someone else that will work for credit after you out in your turn so the promise of future work often goes no where.

Also it is often better to work for free than to work at a reduced rate. Once a client has a number in their head it can be hard to up it later. It is hard to charge them increasing rates for ongoing work once a level is established. Doing a one of demo or test for free can sometimes get around that, allowing you to prove capabilities but not locking into a rate structure. Again though balance how much free work you do as everyone wants free over paid if they can get it.

Doing projects for non-profit groups or schools/research can be a good way to develop skills and show capabilities as well when getting paid is not an option. At least then the work is goign towards projects that have little to no budget anyway so not as bad as given away free work on commercial projects. Possibly try local river/wildlife organizations, environmental groups, etc. This work can make for good local PR.

This is an article we wrote a few years ago on starting a UAV business, while not all applies to ROVs there are some similar points to consider that might be helpful to those new to starting their own business:

Finding another company you can partner with can also be an approach, such as fisheries, inspection, survey or engineering firms that have the client base and technical skills but may not be involved in ROVs. Can be a potential way to get into a new market where you provide a service in partnership with someone already in the general field. We do similar on the aerial side where we work with another geomatics company for certain jobs where technical analysis of the imagery is required for volumetric and other type data review.

All sorts of ideas, Thank you everyone!

what is a HSEQ? I’m not familiar with that one

Health, Safety, Environment and Quality

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Aha. good to know. Thank you!

Very good points brought up by Roy above. Teaming is imperative, it is very difficult to be the ROV guy only, I am speaking from my over 20 years as a ROV/submersible pilot. Also, focus on the deliverable, your post processing of your data, that is what sells your company. As a side note pertaining to the money, not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but look into potable water storage tank inspections as well. I know of several companies that make a killing doing those. and that is all they do. Hope this helps.

Agree with Craig 100%. Really the only thing you offer a client as a sale point is a video and/or some pics. You might perform a dive to perfection but if the final product you offer isn’t in the form of a professional report and showing everything the client wants to see chances are he won’t hire you again. Overlay and especially time /date stamp is very important. Data such as heading and depth can explain what you are looking at and from what angle you are looking. Offer up a video with as much data as possible. Complete a professional report and give all deliverables outlined in the job description to the client. Depending on clients request you may be required to keep a copy of a survey for as many as 7 years. Also one of the biggest sellers you can have in your arsenal is a safety history. Prove to a client your company cares about safety. Being professional will get you future work. Looking to make a quick buck will only leave you looking for work.

The reporting and video production aspects of this shouldn’t be a problem for me, I deal with producing similar for work on a regular basis. Neither should data retention. I work in IT,and as such I have built a backup network that would take several large scale nucelar wars to obliterate heh.

Agree with Roy’s points there regarding making sure you cater for the client rather than just taking some image data and delivering them a video feed.

We use the BlueROV2 as our primary underwater platform, and equip with our own sensor suit to get the data quality that we need to make accurate assessment out of. At the end of the day, providing an in-depth data-driven assessment is what the clients value us for over other ROV operators. To enable this, we put a lot of focus on the data analysis and also have a team of civil engineers who generated comprehensive client end reports.

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Following the discussion : what would be the typical fees you charge for a Bluerov2 inspection service ? (daily rate ?..)