Sunken Sailboat Trident Testing

December 9 2016

A bunch of people from the OpenROV team are planning to head to Hurricane Bay in Lake Tahoe to look at a sunken sailboat called "Ally Cat" using a new Trident prototype.

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December 9 2016

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Mission Underway

On our way back from Tahoe, we also stopped by the side of the road to do some under-ice flying in a river that feeds into the lake. The water was very shallow, and Trident was just barely able to fit between the ice and the bottom.

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Nice! Would love to see the under ice video

In short the trip was a tremendous success. We're still processing a lot of the video captured durring our dives, but here's a highlight reel of the footage we captured with our 360 camera.

Preparation Stage

We reached the dive site at around 10:30 am and quickly got set up with two prototype Tridents, one Rev 8 and one Rev 9.


The two robots have 100m tethers, which ran back to a wifi topside sitting out in the cold. Our pilots, Colin and Charles, were cozy inside the car, ready to do some flying. The rented SUV even had in-ceiling screens that we got set up to show cockpit, so everyone could follow along.

Both robots were in the water at 11:43, and on the wreck moments later. The image quality and maneuverability we saw out of the robots was really something else - both pilots got in and out of the cabin multiple times with ease, and had a pretty fun time chasing each other around the area.

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I spent the afternoon staging at OpenROV HQ in Berkeley. One of the things we're excited to try durring this deployment is filming Trident flying around the shipwreck from the perspective of another ROV in the water- possibly another earlier prototype of Trident. The design of our system will require both ROVs to connect through the same topside module so I conducted a test to assure this configuration would function properly. Happily, everything seems to connect nicely! If things go well, this could be the first deployment with two Tridents flying at once.

Really eager to see the 360 mount!

Although they may seem trivial, the details of how a deployment will be set up should be though out ahead to time to make sure there aren't any holes in the plan. In our case, the deployment architecture is very simple: we'll park the van in the parking area off the main road just south west of the wreck and connect to a WiFi router adjacent to the wreck to minimize the amount of tether needed to get there. As a sanity check, the distance from the nearest point on shore (according to the measurement tool in Google Earth) to the wreck (where we'll set up the WiFi router) is just over 50m, so 100m of tether should be plenty for the ROV to make it there. The distance from the router location on shore to the van is also about 50m, which in an outdoor, low-RF environment, should also be an easy link to close. For good measure, we'll also bring an external WiFi radio and high-gain antenna in case the WiFi connection is worse then we expect.

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Expedition Background

It was apparently a harsh storm that sunk "Ally Cat", a 20-ish foot long sailboat that is now resting in about 60ft of water in Lake Tahoe. This shipwreck has been a popular destination for SCUBA divers because it can be reached from shore and is an interesting feature to look at in an otherwise dull and barren lake bottom. "Ally Cat" has also been a great place for ROV testing. Over the years, we've done numerous dives on the wreck with our 2-series OpenROV kits, but now that we have a depth-rated Trident prototype, we want to revisit the site for testing of the new equipment.


Our plan is to do a day trip to the lake in a rented 12-person van, and use the van as a mobile command center while the ROV dives on the wreck. Because of the wreck's proximity to shore, no boat should be needed. We're also bringing an older Trident model and a 360 camera which we hope to use to get some 3rd-person footage of the dive from underwater.

Conditions are expected to be cold and windy, so this is when having a topside tether module that can be connected to wirelessly from inside a heated car really comes in handy!

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Super excited for the 360 video!