About this project
We owe a huge thank you to all of our backers!
If you are interested in buying the T100 Thruster, T200 Thruster, ESCs, T-shirt, or stickers after the campaign please visit our website at:
The ocean covers over 70% of our planet and is largely unexplored. Our goal is to create low-cost, high-quality components to improve the accessibility of marine robotics and to help explore the world's oceans.
That starts with the T100 thruster.
The T100 is a patent-pending underwater thruster designed specifically for marine robotics. It's high performing with over 5 pounds of thrust and durable enough for use in the open ocean at great depths. A variety of mounting options, simple control, and a low price tag make it the perfect thruster to use on your marine robot.
Marine robotic vehicles come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and designs. They can be powered by batteries, solar power, through a tether, or even by waves. They can be small or large and can be equipped with tools for any mission. Nevertheless, nearly all of them have one thing in common: they have motors and propellers, the combination of which is commonly known as a thruster.
Our interest in underwater thrusters began as part of a side project. We wanted to attach solar panels, a GPS unit, a microcontroller, and thrusters to a surfboard and send it from Los Angeles to Hawaii - completely autonomously.
We were able to find all the components we needed, no problem, except for the thrusters. We could only find two options. The cheap option was to use regular brushless motors without protecting them. Unfortunately, they would corrode and break long before the surfboard made it to Hawaii. The expensive option was to use commercial-grade thrusters designed for remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), but these ranged in price from $500 to $3,000 which was way out of our hobbyist budget.
We realized that we, and thousands of marine robotics enthusiasts around the world, needed something better. That's why we designed the T100 thruster.
We designed the T100 for:
- Makers and Hobbyists who are interested in marine robotics but can't find capable, affordable hardware.
- Students and Schools who can use the T100 for educational projects or to compete in competitions such as the AUVSI RoboSub and RoboBoat competitions.
- Professional Users who want a high-quality thruster that is more capable than many of the high-end (expensive) alternatives.
We're here on Kickstarter because we need your help to take the T100 thruster from prototype to production. We've gotten pretty far on our own, but now we need your financial backing to go the rest of the way. We'll use the Kickstarter funds to buy parts in bulk quantities, set up our assembly process, and ship the thrusters to you as quickly as possible.
Your support will go a long way to help us get our company off the ground (and into the water!). We think the most exciting thing about building this product is seeing all of the awesome things that you guys find to do with it. Even after the Kickstarter, we will work hard to make sure that you can get the components you need for marine robotics!
The T100 is basically a brushless electric motor, just like you’d find on an RC airplane or a quadcopter drone. The big difference is that this motor is purpose-built for use in the ocean and was designed specifically for use on remotely operated underwater vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles, and robotic surface vehicles. Of course you could also use it to propel your stand-up-paddleboard or cruise around while scuba diving!
The T100 is made of high-strength, UV resistant polycarbonate injection molded plastic. The core of the motor is sealed and protected with an epoxy coating and it uses high-performance plastic bearings in place of steel bearings that rust in saltwater. Everything that isn’t plastic is either aluminum or high-quality stainless steel that doesn’t corrode.
A specially designed propeller and nozzle provides efficient, powerful thrust while active water-cooling keeps the motor cool. Unlike other thrusters, our design doesn’t have any air- or oil-filled cavities - water flows freely through all parts of the motor while it's running. That means it can go deep in the ocean and handle extreme pressures.
The thruster is easy to use: just connect the three motor wires to any brushless electronic speed controller (ESC) and you can control it with an RC radio or a microcontroller. It's usable with Arduino, ArduPilot, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, and many other embedded platforms.
- Efficient brushless electric motor
Compact design that fits in any project
- Strong and UV resistant polycarbonate plastic
- No enclosed pressure cavities to handle extreme pressures
- High-performance plastic bearings that don't corrode
- Comes with clockwise and counter-clockwise propellers to counter torque
- Versatile mounting options for use on almost anything
- Rugged cable with polyurethane pressure-extruded jacket
- Thrust (forward): 2.36 kgf (5.2 lbf)
- Thrust (reverse): 1.82 kgf (4.0 lbf)
- Minimum Thrust: 0.01 kgf (0.03 lbf)
- Operating Voltage: 12 V
- Max Power: 130 W
- Max Current: 11.5 A
- Length: 101 mm (4.0 in)
- Nozzle Diameter: 97 mm (3.8 in)
- Propeller Diameter: 76 mm (3.0 in)
- Mounting Holes: 4 x M3 screws
- Electrical Cable Length: 915 mm (36 in)
- Weight in Air: 295 g (0.65 lb)
- Weight in Water: 120 g (0.26 lb)
You can download a CAD model here.
Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) Specifications
- Voltage: 6-15 V
- Current: 20 A
- BEC: 0.5 A @ 5 V
- Power Connectors: 3.5 mm male bullet connector
- Motor Connectors: 3.5 mm female bullet connector
- Signal: Pulse-width (PWM); (1100 μs: max reverse, 1500 μs: stopped, 1900 μs: max forward)
- The ESC firmware (SimonK's tgy) is reprogrammable and can be configured for use with I2C command messages
We've reached over 100% of our funding goal. Now we have some stretch goals that make the T100 even more awesome. The first is a versatile mounting bracket that will come free with all thruster rewards if we hit $40,000.
You do not need the mounting bracket to mount the thruster, but with the bracket there are more mounting options. It allows you mount the thruster to almost anything and in particular to flat surfaces like the bottom of a boat. Check it out in Update #3.
Awesome job everyone, Stretch Goal #1 has been achieved! The second stretch goal is a big deal: it's an integrated electronic speed controller that is water-proof, water-cooled, compact, and has PWM and digital I2C input signals. By integrating the ESC with the thruster, it saves space in your vehicle's hull, reduces heat, and really simplifies wiring of the vehicle.
We won't go into details here because this page is already too long. Check out more details in Update #4.
Stretch Goal #3 is the T200 Thruster, a more powerful thruster that is the same size as the T100 and uses many of the same components. The T200 is better for larger applications like kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and other human-carrying vehicles.
The T200 will have around 4.5 kgf (10 lb) of thrust and use 260-300 W of power.
Read more about it in Update #8 and Update #10!
- We've built a few robotic vehicles with the T100 just to show you how well it works. The first is the solar-powered surfboard that started this whole project in the first place.
The SolarSurfer is a robotic surfboard propelled by two T100s. It will be launched from the coast of California on a 2,500 mile journey to Hawaii. It will complete the three-month trip completely autonomously. You will be able to track it live on our website.
The code is all open source so that you can build your own!
We're offering a very limited number of copies of the SolarSurfer for anyone who is interested in contributing to the project and launching their own! Hardware/software experience required.
Source Code: github.com/bluerobotics
The OpenROV is an awesome project that originally has its roots in Kickstarter as well. They've since grown into a thriving community of marine robotics enthusiasts.
We're offering an OpenROV Compatible Kit that allows you to replace the OpenROV's original brushless motors with the T100 thruster for much more thrust, efficiency, and better resistance to saltwater. The upgrade kit has two stock T100s plus one that has been modified for use as the vertical thruster on the OpenROV. It also includes some hardware you'll need to make the upgrade as smoothly as possible.
OpenROV Website: openrov.com
We've also made our own ROV that uses six thrusters to provide six-degree-of-freedom control. That might seem excessive since most ROVs only have 3-4 thrusters, but with six degrees-of-freedom you can point the ROV in any orientation to film anything, grab anything with a simple robot arm, and have a lot of fun!
At the surface, it's controlled through a laptop with an XBox controller.
All the code is open source and under development if you'd like to check it out! We're offering a few copies of this vehicle to any adventurous hackers out there who want an ROV that's ready to develop code on! Hardware/software experience required.
Source Code: github.com/bluerobotics
There's Tons of Possibilities!
Here's how you back our project:
1. Pick a reward level. Whatever you choose, we appreciate your support!
2. If you pick a reward level that comes in multiple quantities, make sure you pledge the right amount for the quantity you want!
3. If you'd like to add the basic electronic speed controllers (ESCs) to your pledge, just add $20 for each one. If you'd like to add the BlueESC, add $45 each.
4. That's it! Happy Thrusting!
Rusty Jehangir grew up in Chicago with a love for engineering and robotics. After studying aerospace engineering (B.S.) and control systems (M.S.) at the University of Southern California, Rusty was part of a team designing, building, and testing a large-scale gas-powered multicopter for use by the military before shifting to marine robotics. In his free time he loves surfing, skiing, and photography.
Joe Spadola is from Phoenix and has a passion for robotics. He studied mechanical engineering at Arizona State University with an emphasis on modeling and simulation. He has worked on computational fluids dynamics and thermal analysis of jet turbine engines, designed and built autonomous vehicles, consumer product design, and fatigue analysis. In his free time he loves surfing, music, and drawing.
Josh Villbrandt is from Los Angeles and is an avionics engineer at SpaceX during the day and long time lover of robotics. He studied aerospace engineering (B.S.) followed by intelligent robotics (M.S.) at the University of Southern California and has built autonomous ground robots, quadcopters, airplanes, and now marine robots. In his free time he loves climbing, sailing, and playing guitar.
We're very far along in the development process at this point. Initially, we built about four drastically different prototypes before settling into our current design. Since then we've made about four revisions to fine tune and improve the performance.
In April 2014 we won the Proto Labs "Cool Idea! Award", providing all of the tooling for our injection molded plastic parts. The injection molding tooling has been completed and we have prototype parts. Proto Labs has been awesome and incredibly supportive of us and the T100 thruster.
Several of the parts are sourced from China and we have an excellent supplier there who has provided us with production prototypes.
At this point, we need your help to raise enough funding to buy all the components in bulk quantities, to set up our assembly line, and get the first batch of thrusters out the door. Because we already have our tooling made and we've made production prototypes with all of the real parts, we expect things to move very quickly.
We've made an aggressive schedule but we think it's very realistic given our current status. We'll do everything we can to get your thrusters to you as soon as possible!
Risks and challenges
Like any product that's still under development, there's a risk that we will run into unanticipated problems and hiccups that could delay delivery. We're doing everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen. Here's some potential risk areas and what we're doing to minimize the risk:
- Supply Chain
We've built 10 production prototypes that use the exact same parts that will be used for production, including custom parts sourced from China. We're pretty confident in those suppliers based on past experience.
- Stator Winding Labor
Winding the copper coils on the stator is the most laborious part of assembling the thruster. We have mass production quotes from several manufacturers and we're confident they will get it done right, but the scheduling details won't be completely under our control.
It's really hard to know how many thrusters we'll actually sell until the end of the Kickstarter. We made our budget and schedule around a number that we think is reasonable. If we sell dramatically more, there's always a chance that some of the rewards will not be delivered until later than scheduled. We'll do everything we can to avoid that!
We're confident in our product, our supply chain, and our ability to get your thrusters to you on time. GIVE US YOUR SUPPORT AND WE WILL PROVE IT!
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