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Pi project: Underwater drone

Niels Affourtit has turned his passion for RC vehicles into a fully functioning RasPi-based submersible


“When I was a kid I frequently built RC models; sailing boats and speedboats,” explains Niels Affourtit. “While I owned a fantastic RC glider and dreamed of having my own RC submarine someday, my neighbour at the time had an RC submarine and discouraged me from building one by saying this thing always had trouble with its electronics and leakage. Besides, almost all waters are murky in our area!

“Around the end of 2014, I saw a National Geographic episode about the salvage of the Costa Concordia and was very impressed with how they used a VideoRay to monitor the work done by their divers, and it helped revive my dream of having my own model submarine. That’s when I stumbled across the people who have built their own ROV.

“The ROV is controlled with a joystick connected to a laptop. The laptop runs Python scripts, and with PyGame I can read the signals from the joystick. The signals are then translated into servo commands and sent to the Raspberry Pi via a simple socket connection. The Raspberry Pi is the brain of the ROV; it communicates with the surface laptop via Ethernet. Thanks to the OpenROV project, I learnt to implement a Tenda home plug, which reduces the communication lines from four to two wires, increases the reach from about 50 metres with a submerged CAT5 to 300 metres, and makes the signal much less susceptible to noise.”

Want to find out more about Niels Affourtit’s amazing sub? Check out the full interview in issue 164 of LU&D!