OpenROV is a remotely operated mini-submarine that weighs ~2.5 kg and has dimensions 15 cm x 20 cm x 30 cm. This submarine is powered by C batteries and can be assembled from common materials, with the most expensive piece being the BeagleBoneLinux computer (~$89). The submarine is controlled from a laptop computer connected to the submarine via a tether and is equipped with on-board LEDs and a camera. OpenROV is an open-source hardware project. By providing the list of the submarine parts and instructions on how to assemble them, the developers aim to democratize underwater exploration.
The development of the OpenROV submarine was in part fueled by the legend that stolen gold is hidden in the deep waters of the Hall City Cave located near Hayfork in Trinity County, Northern California. According to the legend, a few renegade Native Americans stole ~100 pounds of gold nuggets from miners in the 1800s, but were chased. To escape from the pursuit, the renegades had to bury the nuggets in deep waters of the nearby Hall City Cave to lighten their load, but could not retrieve the gold, because they were soon caught and hanged. Even though many have tried to find the gold, nobody has been able to get to the bottom of the narrow and deep well of the cave. Some of the OpenROV testing has taken place at that cave.
The idea to build OpenROV was pioneered by Eric Stackpole, a NASA spacecraft engineer at the time, to discover whether the legend about the hidden treasure of the Hall City Cave was true. David Lang, a self-taught sailor from Minnesota, heard about Stackpole building a small, cheap, and robust submarine in his garage to search for the gold and became inspired to join. After having Matteo Borri design and build the electronics, software and motor system for the first working prototype and subsequently presenting it at the New York Maker's Faire, Lang and Stackpole co-founded OpenROV as an open-source hardware, a startup, and a DIY community.