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Surface Controller

(Etienne Demers) #1


We are presently building a surface controller to allow for a more industrial approach to controlling the BlueROV2. (And hopefully smoother)

Here are the specs:

  • USB Joystick interface (Naively supported by Windows)
  • 8 axis 4096bit input (4 used, 4 spares)
  • 32 dimmable backlit buttons
  • Hall effect 3 axis joystick
  • Hall effect single axis joystick
  • Tether connector
  • DC jack for power (Fathom board and backlight)
  • External DC 12 V power supply
  • Fathom-X tether board
  • Panel mount Ethernet

This is mostly to be used inside a control room. It is not meant to be weather proof.

Hopefully, this will be completed before the end of the month. I’ll post pictures.

We are also designing a second controller that will include surface power for the BR2. Similar enclosure but slightly bigger. This will require a different tether and swap out the 3inch battery enclosure with a power enclosure. It is still in the development stage.

I would love to hear any comments and suggestions from people who have worked with BR2.


Hi Im Christian ..Pro ROV pilot and Diver.. 100 questions.. anyone up for it?;)
(Etienne Demers) #2

Hello all,

A little update on my progress.

Got the buttons and joystick mounted. I am quite happy with the results. Its not perfect but for a prototype it does the trick.

I protected the top surface with some silk screen sticky paper and it was well worth it.

I also decided to put a couple handles on.

Next is the tedious task of wiring the buttons and joysticks.

I also need to mount hardware on the back plate but I am waiting on components to get here to confirm hole dimensions.

Can’t wait to see how well it responds in QGC.

Here are the components so far:










(Etienne Demers) #3

Hello All,

Couldn’t wait and ended up spending the day wiring the controller.

Finally got the buttons and joystick wired.

First impression was a bit disappointing:

Being that I double check my wiring as I go I thought the buttons were DOA. Turns out the little bulb inside hold by a thread so I can see myself having to re-seat them a lot:

I am not super impressed with the way they light up, perhaps someone know of better backlit buttons?

Of course I had to test drive it in QGC:

It came up instantly.

My HALL effect joystick were worth the extra cost. Compared to the Logitech and other controllers I have tested where the values bounce a bit, this one is flat solid.

Also when you move the joystick and come back is goes right back to the previous value.

As you can see, QGC finds all of my 36 buttons but it still only allows to allocate 16 buttons which I hope can be sorted out.

I will ask this in another thread.


(undersearobotics.com) #4

Agreed. If precision is what you’re after it’s definitely worth spending the extra money for a truly industrial quality, Hall Effect joystick.

(Etienne Demers) #5

Hello Again,

Here are some more pictures of the build.

Not my best work but for a prototype it will have to do.

I also used plain paper for the buttons label and I found it added to diffusing the light. Comes out pretty good actually.

Shopping list:




Left to the project is an adjustable regulator and a panel mount trim pot plus a fuse holder.

I’ll post the conclusion once the project is complete.


(undersearobotics.com) #6

Nice, neat wiring job!

(Heinz) #7

Looks good, I hope you get it to do what you want with the time invested to do a professional job like this.

(Etienne Demers) #8

I have only tested it in QGC for now. We should do sea trials on the BR2 in January.

I am waiting for my tech to come back with Paul’s BR2 simulator and we will give a first official test run.

(Etienne Demers) #9

Almost finished with this project.

Added a variable voltage regulator, potentiometer and fuse holder with 5A fuse.

I can now dim the buttons right down. (although hard to see on the pictures)

This allows me to see which button is which while flying when all the lights are turned off which I find quite useful.

About these buttons I find that they heat up if full brightness is on.

The regulator heats up a lot and its heating up the backplate. I haven’t received the heatsink for it yet and I think I will be moving it to the bottom plate by itself.

Shopping list:






(Christian) #10

Will follow…but how is handling now??..can you go lateral and the same time go a bit counteclock… like an inspection on a pipe in a circle?..possible?

(Etienne Demers) #11

You can fly the ROV same as any other inspection class.

(undersearobotics.com) #12

Absolutely. Here are some tips: http://marinesimulation.com/custom-hand-controller-design/

(Christian) #13

What will somthing like this cost?

(undersearobotics.com) #14

Depends how expensive you want to get with the components. The Bodnar USB interface is around $40USD, but “industrial quality” joysticks run $180USD and up. Just the components for the hand controller illustrated on our website cost around $500USD. But cheaper (and poorer quality) alternatives can be found.

(Christian) #15

ok;O…well that dont scare me,but will hopefully uildt it myself (for the joy and my needs;) but just an example…can this be used https://www.ebay.com/itm/282629368776 ?

(undersearobotics.com) #16

That’s an example of a “cheaper component”. :wink: It uses cheap carbon potentiometers. Yes, it will work, but a high quality Hall Effect joystick ( like this: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/apem-inc/HF33R10/1040-1011-ND/3507491 ) will work even better (and is what is used in higher end ROV’s such as SeaEye, Seabotix, etc.).

(Etienne Demers) #17

1000USD assembled c/w cables and power supply

(Christian) #18

ok i un derstand;9 well lets see what i do:) start in the small i have left on my budget;) but will advance…i have faith in this system;)…just need a small manip and positioning, we are up and going pro;)))…im just for the moment bidding on a blueROV2 on Ebay?:wink: and claculating the extras…hehehe… looks like santa got robbed;)

(Etienne Demers) #19

On a budget you can go for something like this to start you up: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Brand-New-Good-Quality-USB-Computer-PC-Flight-Joystick-Rocker-Flight-Simulator-Free-Shipping/32222812154.html?

This one is also cost effective with HAL effect sensors: http://www.thrustmaster.com/en_US/products/t16000m-fcs-space-sim-duo

It can serve as a backup if you upgrade. The only problem is the vertical control is a bit difficult and hard to get in the center without looking.

I made my controller based of the same setup as my Mohican’s. I find its worth the cost but its a personal choice in the end.

(Christian) #20

aa ive seen them and they remind me of worklass…and i like OBS setup better… i get better feeling in my fingers than my hand as a fighterpilot… looks col but i dont like as well as the easy old ones… as Sea Owl feks…perfect ;)… but i need Potmeters for all trusters and lights (esp. ccw &clw gain)(can that be adjusted Down in the program too?..bec a see a lot of videos that reminds me of my first Argus Rover… var in the factory and made them reprogram it… was Too strong (CCW $ CW)so the ROV arent stable in turns?:wink:
… autocontrols heading and dept.? are there?.. so if i purcase theese things i will get help putting this together and work?.. i know hydraulic, sledghammerwork, and elektro, and pilotoing, but comuterprogramming and Electronics :frowning: … Mayday mayday;) …you help me and i Might figure out a manip for us;)