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Zeroing in on the details

Posted by OpenROV (Creator)

Hello backers!

Our last update was quite short as we wanted to focus on letting everyone know about the status of our injection molded shells. There are many other bits of news relating to our DVT build and other progress that I wanted to write about, so in this update, that’s what I’ll focus on.

Injection Molded Topside Shell

One thing we’ve made some great progress on is the WiFi Topside module. As described in a previous update, we had to do some fairly involved engineering work to manage the thermal budget for these parts. Materials selection was an important element of this, and we ultimately chose a fairly exotic plastic that is augmented with ceramic to increase thermal conductivity of the topside shell. The injection molded parts that use this plastic have arrived, and we’ve been happy to find that they work well enough to use in final production. Holding these topsides is a strange sensation. Because they transfer heat from your hand very quickly, it feels as if you’re holding metal rather than plastic. To show the difference using a thermally conductive plastic has on heat dissipation, I wanted to share these photos taken with our thermal imaging camera. We’re pretty happy with how well the WiFi Topside adapters have turned out, and we hope you’ll enjoy the strange feeling of holding them as much as we do.

Comparison of thermal dissipation of WiFi Topside built with normal plastic (left) and special thermally conductive plastic (right)
Comparison of thermal dissipation of WiFi Topside built with normal plastic (left) and special thermally conductive plastic (right)

 DVT Assembly Line build-up

As we’ve been testing the new parts that are arriving, we’ve also been building up our DVT production line to make sure everything integrates nicely. Our contract manufacturing house, located here in the San Francisco Bay Area has been working closely with us to make sure we have consistent processes for assembling the vehicles. We’ve also brought in a few manufacturing experts from our network as an extra layer of support to ensure everything is being done optimally. Building large quantities of a product - particularly a mechanically complicated product - requires a lot of process control so that varying teams of workers can always get the same results. As we’ve continuously improved our procedures, we’ve been able to shift our role from actively participating in the assembly process to overseeing the manufacturing team as they build prototypes to our specification - giving feedback and advising on areas that can use improvement.

Tether Reel

We’ve also been able to do more prototype field testing to understand any potential rough spots in the overall user experience with Trident. To improve the experience, we created a simple reel for the 25m tether that fits in the carrying box with Trident and holds the WiFi Topside in place to keep things organized. Because coiling wire in a single direction induces twists, the reel has also been designed so that it is intuitively coiled and uncoiled from the same side so twists created from the coiling process are undone by the uncoiling process. The shape of the reel also allows the tether to be pulled off of it as it rests on the ground so a hand can be free to control the vehicle as it moves out into the water. The reel is simple, but it seems to do its job well. We’ll be including one of these reels in every Trident package.



Velcro Strap

We’re also adding a velcro strap to each Trident package. The strap is a simple thing to add, and we think it will be very helpful to have around because it can be used to route the tether along the tail of the vehicle in certain deployment scenarios such as ice diving, cave exploration, or shipwreck penetration. Normally, the tether should come directly out of the connector at the center of the vehicle so that Trident maintains turning authority even if there is tether tension. For operations in confined areas such as the ones described above, the operator may want to run the tether off the back of the vehicle so if it needs to be retrieved by pulling on the tether, it moves straight backward instead of creating a T-shape with the tether that can get fouled on surrounding obstacles. The velcro strap can also be used to secure the WiFi Topside during normal operation.

For situations where there are many obstacles, the velcro strap can be used to route the tether along the tail of the vehicle
For situations where there are many obstacles, the velcro strap can be used to route the tether along the tail of the vehicle

You’ll also notice that the tail of Trident now contains a series of lights that shine through the shell. These lights are part of the internal Tail Board electronics we’ve added, and can be used to show battery level and other status indicators for the vehicle.

Velcro strap can also be used to secure the WiFi Topside durring operation
Velcro strap can also be used to secure the WiFi Topside durring operation

Controlling device support

Another aspect of the user experience we’ve been thinking about a lot recently has been device support. We described in an earlier update that our initial release of Trident will only work with Android devices since developing a high quality iOS app in addition to Android would require a much larger team and more resources than what we have right now. Many of our supporters who have iOS devices have asked if there are specific tablets we’d recommend for Trident, so we’re vetting an array of options now and will post a list of them soon. In general, the main requirement is that the device runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, and ideally has plenty of onboard memory or support for external memory in order to record video. We’ve also gotten requests to sell a custom controller that is optimized for using Trident and comes with the necessary software pre-installed and tested. We’re looking into this option now and have already found a manufacturer who could work with us to develop the ideal Trident controller. We’re compiling a list of emails for people who would be interested in buying this device if we were to come out with it at a later point. You can subscribe to that list by clicking here.

In the coming weeks we will continue to rapidly refine our production process, test the new (hopefully last) batch of injection molded shells, and verify that every aspect of the vehicle is working in a satisfactory way. We will continue to solidify our timeline as we learn which systems require additional process control through testing. We are working hard to reach a definitive shipping calendar. Stay tuned for more information about that. As always, you can reach us at if you need anything in the meantime. We will be back in touch with more information soon!

Thanks as always,


Jesse Neufeld, Emily McBryan, and 18 more people like this update.


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    1. Rayan M Alhussamy on

      Hello OpenROV team and Eric,
      Any plan to test trident in Toronto this coming October ??
      Are we expecting to receive Trident soon??

    2. Missing avatar

      Ken Schwantje on

      Thank Eric. I'm over the "shock" of the UI change. With this change being a step forward not just lateral that works for me.

      Recommendations on the Android platform based on your testing to date is more critical now with no game controller involved since the display is the control (touch screen). I'll chase support for recommendations.

    3. OpenROV 2-time creator on

      @Mark - Thank you for the very kind encouragement. We hope we're doing the best job possible navigating the trade-space of features and time. We'll also try to address the concerns Gerrit and others have about timeline and iOS support which I think are quite valid. We often have to make difficult decisions on where to focus, but my hope is that we can end up with a product that everyone is really satisfied with.

      @Ken Schwantje - I hear where you're coming from as well- the web browser-based cockpit is what we had envisioned (and had working at a some level) initially, but we've changed that to running a native Android app instead for a few reasons. The support response you got back was accurate in that we found that a lot of our users wanted to take something more portable (and often more durable and lower cost) into the field, but we also found that there were some fairly significant performance and reliability limitations in using a web-browser-based system with respect to the capabilities we wanted Trident to have. Most notably, the functionality and quality of our video system could be made much better by using a native app that we have full control over and that is not subject to changes made by browser software that we don't have control over. There are a lot of other more specific details to why we made the switch on a technical level which might be too much to include here, but I'll send you a PM in case you'd like to hear more about it. These sort of technical decisions are ones we’ve spent a lot of time debating so I’d really love to chat about the details and hear feedback.

      Thank you, guys!


    4. Missing avatar

      Ken Schwantje on

      I noted in the update and the specification posted on the openrov site for the Trident that the support for a WEB browser is not mentioned.
      "Works on a modern Android (minimum 5.1) device through the OpenROV App."
      Would you please confirm that this is the case?

      This would be a MAJOR change and not something open which the original specs portrayed and stated as a feature.

      If there are pros of going this way then please let me know, and or the full reasoning of this.

      The response I received back from an inquiry stated: " At this time we have decided to not create a web app, based on relative demand. ". I would like to see the demand from the backers that pulled this feature out of the release.
      Do you not already have all the code from your DYI product...

      Maybe I am missing something please let me know.

    5. Mark on

      I personally disagree totally with Gerrets comment. From the start we new it wasn't going to be iOS compatible straight away & the price we payed for for this item & all it's amazing features is awesome � Dam, my wife spends more on a handbag than the trident lol � but seriously for all the R&D then multiple upgrades that are passed on to us, I applaud you guys for not charging us more. You could have simply pushed out Trident Ver 1.0 of crap but instead you took the high road & continued to develop & put out a high quality product. Plus you can get a Android tablet for like $120 & afford a accident if it get wet. I would like to use my IPad Pro for this job, it's to valuable for the environment �
      Just wanted to share MY positive opinion & say great work & keep it going ��

    6. OpenROV 2-time creator on

      @JKB - Thank you very much. We'll try to keep these sort of updates coming.

      @Mark - We definitely agree with your point about not re-inventing the wheel. In the case of the controller we're considering, this would essentially be an off-the-shelf device that has been modified by the manufacturer for our specific purpose. To address @Rayan M Alhussamy's question, doing these modifications would not change our shipping schedule as it would not require significant internal development time. (Thanks, @Ryan M Alhussamy for the feedback on the update- we hope to have more firm dates on schedule once we've finished DVT testing.)

      @Rob - Yep! As we announced in the December update, we're also going to include a (separate) reel for 100m-long tethers which will make tether management much easier. We thought the 25m lengths would be short enough to manage without a reel, but after doing more user testing we realized it would be better to have tether management for that too. Both tether lengths will come with reels. We hope these additions will make the user experience much better.

      @Gerrit Band - I understand where you're coming from. We are doing the best we can with the resources we have. We've tried to stay as communicative as possible about what is happening with the development process, and we continue to make process decisions based on a belief that it is better to get things right rather than rushing the project. I'm always happy to talk about where we're at and how we're making decisions. I'll send you an email shortly so we can arrange a time to talk about this stuff if you'd like.

      Thank you, everyone, for being so responsive. It's good to hear back when we make these posts!


    7. Missing avatar

      Gerrit Band on

      I am not happy with the fact that after so many delays there still is nothing whatever for iOS users. Now we have to buy an extra device? May I remind you of the price we pay? I am disappointed

    8. Missing avatar

      Rob on

      Love the reel idea. Will you also be offering a real for the 100 metre length? Assume swapping out the 25 for the 100 will be easy as well?

    9. Rayan M Alhussamy on

      Hi all,
      Wonderful update.
      Optional controller is no harm but I hope this does not mean more delays.
      I understand and appreciate your efforts put to this project but we really cannot wait to fly one.
      Can we have a delivery date estimate?
      Thanks to all.

    10. Mark on

      Great update as always ��
      My input to the idea of developing a controller is "why reinvent the wheel ?"
      Oculus Rift came to this same dilemma in the development of the Rift. Multi billion dollar startup chose a already fully functioning controller familiar to millions & available already world wide. They went with a XBox one controller & then spent money in developing other more important things.
      Unless you want to go exotic with a DJI style which also integrates a mobile device but that again posses many device conflicts & limitations.
      Again, just me voicing my opinion & hoping to help. ��

    11. JKB

      I seriously love all of your updates. So informative and comprehensive.