The Trident Underwater Drone is the latest product from OpenROV, the Berkeley, California-based makers of open-source underwater exploration tools. The Trident has been in development for years and is now available for purchase after a successful Kickstarter launch.
Trident is portable and easy to use - a massive leap from traditional ROVs or underwater drone. It can fit easily into a backpack or under a seat as carry-on luggage. Users pilot their Trident through an Android app. The drone is ready to dive in less than a minute, and records and streams live HD video back up to the surface. Bright LEDs illuminate depths of up to 100m. “A lot of effort has gone into making Trident the very best tool that it can be,” says co-founder and lead engineer, Eric Stackpole, “Every little detail has been thoughtfully engineered. Most cameras are covered by a glass lens, but we built a scratch-proof sapphire lens to protect against impacts and scratches -- that’s just one example.” Trident indeed looks tough and as proof it can withstand being bitten by a Great White Shark.
OpenROV has a very loyal group of pilots and do-it-yourself ROV builders - many of whom have been together since the idea of a home-built remotely operated submersible first emerged. Because of this origin, the Trident also serves as a platform onto which users can mount homemade sensors, modules, and additional cameras. The company plans to release a developer kit and modules, allowing Trident to be upgraded and “hacked” to fit a larger list of jobs than an off-the-shelf drone.
We met the OpenROV team at DEMA in Las Vegas in November and they were excited to show Trident to the diving industry. “A lot of our customers are divers,” says Zack Johnson, product manager, “Divers are using Trident for checking out new sites and scout ahead. This seems especially important to technical divers. Bottom time is everything to folks on deeper dives and if you aren’t exactly on target you’re wasting a lot of bottom time looking.” OpenROV is also seeing some early interest in this new technology from liveaboard captains and dive boat operators. “Not everyone can or wants to dive but they can still participate. Some captains stream the live video to a monitor or TV during surface intervals and at anchor for the night. It’s been really, really cool to see how people are responding to it.”
Just as interesting as the technology is the community that’s built around it. OpenROV hopes that Trident will lower the barrier to entry for citizen scientists, environmental groups, and ocean explorers. Through a partnership with National Geographic, OpenROV has launched OpenExplorer, a “digital field journal” that aims to to give a louder voice to anyone who wants to explore or inspire. Co-founder, David Lang explains, “OpenROV’s mission is to give anyone who is curious or wants to explore the opportunity to be a modern Jacques Cousteau. We want everyone out there pushing the limit of our understanding of the ocean, and making sure to bring everyone along for the ride.”