Bristlemouth modules for underwater vehicles

I’m really interested in building underwater vehicles using Bristlemouth. From the experience I’ve had with OpenROV, I’ve learned that every mission has unique needs for payload and configuration, but the core parts needed - things like batteries, thrusters, cameras, depth and orientation sensing, lighting, processing, and communications with the surface are usually the same. For this reason, it seems to me that using an architecture that is modular allows a lot more agility. If each subsystem is independently waterproof and connected with the same connector and protocol (e.g. Bristlemouth), it would be easy to reconfigure parts for each mission and re-use parts across different missions, plus field repairs would be much easier since one can just bring plug-in spares.

Please share your thoughts!

I couldn’t help but make a prototype of an AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) design I’ve been thinking about with the Bristlemouth parts I have access to. Although I didn’t have access to Bristlemouth Motes when I built this, I was able to put together this system with power-only connections in only a few days.

This design could be useful for doing photogrammetric bottom surveys or running side scan survey lines, although my real motivation for building it was just to play around with the concept of building a vehicle this way were everything is modular and flooded. For efficient operation, the bottom profile of the vehicle would be covered with a flooded cowling to keep things hydrodynamic.

The batteries, hub, light and thrusters in this prototype are all functional although they are not communicating with the Bristlemouth protocol just yet. The plastic cylinder in the front of the vehicle is a place holder for a buoyancy engine I’m planning to develop, and the fin on the top is a place-holder for a GPS/ Communications radio stack that I’d also like to build. All items aside from the camera would be potted.

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I thought I would move some of the information I had placed into the introduction section here instead, where it seems a better fit.

I’m currently putting together a student research project for a local college physics department that will make use of submersible ROVs that we will build. When I first saw mention of Bristlemouth, I thought that our project might be a good way to expose our students to this new effort. Our intent is to build a number of ROVs to meet a number of educational objectives, using as many off the shelf components used creatively as possible, but these same ROVs could be a neat place to make a demonstration of the uses of Bristlemouth. I’d like our students to explore 2 main areas of work. (1) the challenges of fabricating devices that can be used at increasing depth, and (2) to explore ROV designs that would allow for easy swapping of components depending on the mission of the ROV. The intent of work area 1 would be to eventually build an ROV that could descend to the bottom of Lake Michigan at a depth of 985 feet and collect some water and bottom samples. The intent of work area 2 would be to see if we can implement a standard “bus” or frame that can hold one or more pieces of instrumentation, with those pieces being easily swappable. We’re a small school and a small department, so it’ll be interesting to see how far we can get with limited resources. But, who knows, maybe we’ll come up with something interesting. I’m hoping that at some point we might be able to get access to some bristlemouth connectors and the like to work with, but I think that there’s some reality that those things might be hard to come by and there may be some priority to their availability. I don’t know enough about them yet to understand the supply side of that.

Anyway, that’s a short description of what we have in mind.

@Rongee Great description, and thanks for posting about that! I love what you’re aiming to do and I think Bristlemouth is a great system for it. As it was coming together, there was a lot of discussion about almost exactly your type of project - R&D where development wants to be done incrementally (e.g. in a modular way that can be added to a vehicle or system piece-by-piece without the whole thing needing to be built at once), and missions where there may be many configurations to try with similar parts.

For an educational project, I think having (and building) with Bristlemouth works great because it allows students to focus on the area they want to innovate on, and just Lego together the rest of the parts needed for their vehicle and system.

Right now, Sofar is sending out Development Kits that are optimized for the existing Spotter Smart Mooring system, but soon there should be a way to can get the individual parts like Bristlemouth jumpers and Motes. I’ll keep you posted about that - it would be great to see what you can do once you get some of these parts in-hand!

I’ve been able to find a couple of books that have not only a good deal of background info on submersibles, but also some projects that can be done. The idea being that we tie that information to the overall mechatronics material in the physics curriculum. So, I thought that we have these known projects that can be done to teach some of the mechanics of submersibles but then can be updated , modifying components to make use of Bristlemouth. By the time we get to our 2nd or 3rd generation ROV, we’re just using Bristlemouth as part of the basic design.

I could see us starting with using Bristlemouth to control something simple like having lights on or off, and them move on to, say, controlling a device where we might be issuing instructions over Bristlemouth and then receiving data. I still have to learn more about Bristlemouth to see what the protocol is designed for. And then, on the mechanical side, doing those things, but at increasing depth. Once I have a student team put together, we’ll have a better idea of what they’d like to work on.

Yeah, I’d appreciate a heads up if you receive any information on availability of some of the Bristlemouth components.


@Rongee @estackpole - looks like we are thinking along similar lines. I am also thinking of setting up for an educational project using Bristlemouth to return information from an OpenROV to the surface. I was concerned that it would only be possible to do so using the Spotter system, so I am looking forward to finding out about getting individual parts that might allow some flexibility.

@cradix Awesome! I’m very interested to know what kind of things you want to create. The goal is to start building up an array of modular systems that can attach with Bristlemouth and can be configured however one desires for each individual mission (or classroom project). I think of each module sort of like an underwater Lego brick.

Are there any particular types of modules you’re particularly excited about? What features of Bristlemouth are most useful to you?

Glad to have you on the Forums! @Rongee and I have been having some good conversations about this stuff but it’s basically just been the two of us since the Forums are just getting started. It’s wonderful to be including you in the discussion as well!


@cradix Hi Kathy, welcome to the party! Nice to have another person to share ideas with. Eric @estackpole is way way way more experienced with ROVs than I am, but if you read the things I’ve written so far, you can get an idea of kinda where I hope to head with our projects. As luck would have it, I was about to add a paragraph to the project topic that I started. I’ll try to link you guys to it when I post it today. But, like Eric, I’d sure like to hear what ideas you have.