Under Sea Rover 1 (USR1)

I’ve started this thread as a carryover from my “New Build” thread in this section. I’m now leaving basic construction behind and starting a new phase of gaining experience in actual in-ocean exploration with 3 dimensional control. USR1 has been deep in the ocean for reef photography about 6 times, but never before with vertical control capability and neutral buoyancy. It was just used in drop-down and rotation mode. 3D opens up a lot of new possibilities, but can also lead to encountering new problems. Learning to maneuver in a strong current will be the biggest challenge, as well as avoiding entanglement. I have built USR1 as small as possible to minimize this problem, and the T100’s put out plenty of thrust to oppose the current.

USR1 is very basic. Blue Robotic components are the 10" WTE, three T100’s with ESC’s, and penetrators. The microprocessor is an Adafruit Mini Metro. The Tether is cat5e with a Kevlar chord attached. All control at this point is strictly manual through a joystick for x-y, and potentiometer for z. A basic cctv system is used with input to a topside 7" monitor and DVR. The camera is a Sony 700 TVL board camera. I also have a GoPro mounted on the WTE (not attached in this testing video).

The purpose of building USR1 is for video photography of the man-made reefs off of Jacksonville, Florida. I will be operating in up to 130 feet depth, out to about 30 miles.

I hope everyone can learn something from this thread, including what not to do. Please challenge me with questions and ideas.


Here is the pool test of new 3D capability: Rover 1 pool test - YouTube


Looks great Richard – very interesting design!

Keep us posted on the sea trials!

First time at sea for 3D USR1 didn’t go well due to my inability to maintain heading during the descent. Heading hold jumped all over the place and I couldn’t hold course against the current to get down through the “blind” section where I can’t see bottom (see my post in the general section). Until I get the heading hold solved I am going back to ballasting negative and just drop to the bottom. I will use the vertical thruster to maintain depth while moving around. I’m going out to the reefs tomorrow and can hopefully give you a better report with some video.

Here’s a video from yesterday’s trip. I am being very cautious approaching the barge. Just learning to maneuver the USR1. This is with negative ballasting and vertical thruster capability.


Hi Richard,

Re: Topside Video Displays

You might want to take a look at these video displays here.

They are designed for FPV (>400 cd/m2 brightness) and come with a custom sun shield.

They do not have a built-in battery nor DVR, but those can be added by a creative DIYer.

I have ordered the 5 in version for testing purposes since I will be using a GoPro Hero 3+ for recording HD video and just need to view the GoPro SD output on the surface.



USR-1 is now in it’s final configuration and is active. Next step is BR tether. Exploring a spring fed lake tomorrow. I’ll post vids. Being able to attach the tether forward or aft of the cg is important, so is the vertical stabilizer. If strong currents expected then attach the tether forward, otherwise aft.

Final best buoyancy is about 16 oz negative. Final Kp of 16 and Kd of 3 works well (holds heading about +/- 5 degrees which is fine for my use).

Looks pretty cool! Can’t wait to see how this thing cruises for you.

Here’s a very boring video from the shoreline at Kingsley Lake on Camp Blanding, Florida that I did today. USR-1 is doing okay. Still a lot to learn. Last of video with dive bomb pullout is cool. Tether is a pain, so BR’s is a must.