Rustom Jehangir, Joe Spadola and Josh Villbrandt want to further the field of marine robotics. They know that the ocean covers seventy percent of our planet but it mostly unexplored. They wanted to build robots and begin the business of exploration.
While building their Solar Surfer robot, the team was able to source every component easily and for a low cost - except the thrusters. Commercial thrusters built for underwater ROVs cost between $500 and $3000. Their solution was to build their own thruster, the T100.
The T100 has more than five pounds of thrust and can withstand heavy ocean depths. Several mounting options are available for the thrusters and the team will ship its own controller with the thruster for another $20. The price for this round of Kickstarter thrusters is $100.
Brushless electric motors have trouble in the ocean environment because of the saltwater corrosion on steel components. The T100 is built from polycarbonate injection molded plastic, and the core of the motor is sealed with epoxy. Plastic ball bearings take the place of steel elements.
Plastic, aluminum and stainless steel make up the components of the device to combat corrosion. Three motor wires interface with any brushless electronic speed controller. Arduino, ArduPilot, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and other platforms can also be used with the controller.
Forward thrust maxes at 2.36 kilogram-force and a minimum thrust of 0.01 kilogram-force. The device operates at 12 Volt and a maximum current of 11.5 amps. The thruster assembly is four inches long and 3.8 inches in diameter, with a 36 inch cable and a weight of 295 grams in air.
The Kickstarter campaign video also focuses on two projects that the team is building as proof of concept prototypes, a new Solar Surfer and the BlueROV. The Solar Surfer is intended to autonomously surf from Los Angeles to Hawaii, propelled by two solar-powered thrusters. BlueROV has six thrusters attached to give the assembly motion in all six degrees of freedom.
T100 is a great advancement in the field of marine robotics. The customer base may not be very large but the campaign has already pulled in $54,000 with sixteen days to go, blasting by their goal of $35,000 for production startup costs.