876 words • 3~5 min read

Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: The OpenROV Trident

The future of ocean exploration is here.

OpenROV Trident – An Underwater Drone for Everyone by OpenROV

I’ve been watching, exploring, and working with the folks at OpenROV since their last Kickstarter, way back in 2012. Today they announce the launch of Trident, the next generation underwater vehicle, and one of the most capable microROVs that I’ve ever seen. I had the rare pleasure to join them in Lake Tahoe this May to test fly one of the earliest prototypes, and it surpassed all of my expectations.

You don’t need to hear me sing the praises of one of the most important emergent technologies in marine science and conservation. The rise of affordable, capable, portable underwater robots will fundamentally change the way we think about exploring the ocean and monitoring ocean health.

Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter criteria!

1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science? You bet. OpenROV have been building underwater vehicles for upwards of four years. I use their robots in my research and education programs. The first peer-reviewed publication using OpenROV as a research platform will be coming out at the end of the month. 

2. Is there a clear goal, timeline, and budget; and are they partnering with the people who have experience hitting those marks? OpenROV is, by volume, one of, if not the, largest manufacturer of underwater robots. They’ve got the chops and the in-house expertise to pull this off. Their goals are, if anything, conservative. They know their market and they understand how to manufacture robots in bulk. This is a well-structured Kickstarter with an extremely high likelihood of success and on-time delivery.

3. Do some of the parties involved have a successful record with other crowdfunding projects and experience delivering on rewards. OpenROV launched their first Kickstarter in 2012 (and you should totally go watch that first launch video just to see how far they’ve come). It was a huge success, one of the first that blew past its initial goals. The final robot shipped from that project, the v2.3 was delayed, which is expected for first time Kickstarters, but not significantly. I can’t speak for any of the other ~100 original OpenROVs issued as rewards for that project, but mine still works. Since than, they’ve come a long way, and really demonstrate how a successful Kickstarter can launch an entire industry. The new v2.8s are pretty awesome, too. David Lang, one of the founders, also successfully Kickstarted a book, which was delivered on time and is a pretty good read.

The Sea-Factor. Obvious disclosure is obvious. I know these guys. I’ve worked with them. I spent a huge amount of time hanging out with the whole OpenROV crew. I took a team of OpenROV techs out to Papua New Guinea with me.  I’m co-authoring papers with them. They’re the real deal. You won’t find a group of people anywhere more passionate about exploration or more committed to making the tools of ocean exploration affordable. And they build a damn fine robot. You’d have to shell out $20,000 or more to find an underwater robot as capable and as flexible as the OpenROV v2.7 (the robot I’ve done most of my work with). The v2.8 is even better. Trident is in a class by itself. There is no other microROV on the market anything like Trident, at any price.

I want one.


Updates from past recommendations:

The Ocean Collection – Recycled Fishing Net Sunglasses finished an extremely strong campaign last week, topping out at over $180,000, more than 600% of their funding goal. I ordered a pair of Newens, which are scheduled to ship next month.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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