Jan. 2, 2013 at 6:51 PM ET
A build-it-yourself underwater rover is now officially for sale after success on Kickstarter, and anyone can order one and put it together. It may not be a breeze to construct, but now you don't have to be James Cameron to do your own submarine exploration.
OpenROV is a bare-bones underwater robot that runs on C batteries and can be operated from just about any computer. It's meant for classrooms and amateur explorers, who can explore the bottoms of lakes and coral reefs from the safety of the boat via a live video feed and simple controls. It's designed to go as deep as 100 meters, or about 328 feet.
The campaign on Kickstarter in July proved extremely popular, aiming for $20,000 but raising over $110,000 as over 100 people shelled out serious money to be among the first owners. Many of the Kickstarter backers received their kits in time for Christmas, and now that the first batch is out the door, OpenROV has opened up an online store so that the rest of us can buy in.
The kit costs $830, and comes with all the pieces you need: laser-cut metal bits for the chassis, the simple motors used to propel it, and the circuitboard and wiring to hook it up to your computer.
But it isn't a project you can throw together on the coffee table in an afternoon. At the moment, the kit still requires some expertise to assemble — you'll need to do a bit of soldering, and should be familiar with wiring up pretty raw electronics.
Pre-assembled kits will come later, for a little extra. The goal, however, isn't to make a profit on these kits (although they do need to keep the company running). OpenROV wants to get as many out there as possible so the community can modify them, write new software for it, and otherwise improve the whole ecosystem. To that end, everything from schematics to drivers are open source and available to download for free.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBCNews Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.