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ROS2 Embarks on a Mission to the Bottom of Lake Tahoe

ROS2 Embarks on a Mission to the Bottom of Lake Tahoe

Hi everyone,

Charles from Mission Robotics here, and I’m excited to share a teaser for a big milestone that our team recently achieved and what we believe is a new first for ROS2!

About 10 days ago, we embarked on a mission to reach the bottom of Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, and second deepest at around 500m, right behind Crater Lake in Oregon (~594m). To do this, we built a ROS2-powered ROV that utilizes custom in-house hardware, electronics, communication solutions, and software, while building on top of the base BlueROV2 vehicle frame designed and built by Blue Robotics.

In the weeks leading up to this expedition, we performed several test dives at a number of milestone depths (100m, 200m, 300m, 450m) to prepare for a successful (and hopefully uneventful) dive to 500m. These test dives were completed with no major issues, giving us the confidence to go the distance!

For now, we’ll just w[h]et your appetite with these few short clips, but will be sharing the full dive very soon!

Some other recent dives:

To provide a bit of background on our company and what we do, Mission Robotics specializes in marine technology and robotics and was founded earlier this year by myself and two other colleagues. The three of us were all former engineering leads at a company called OpenROV and founded Mission Robotics with the goal of continuing to innovate in, and make more accessible, technology in the marine space.

We are developing custom hardware, electronics, and software that aims to provide both a user- and developer-friendly vehicle platform for a variety of marine and aquatic applications, drawing on our broad experience across consumer, research, and industrial applications. Our current focus is on ROV and AUV applications, but our systems are designed to support many types of vehicles and applications, such as surface vehicles, buoys, underwater camera stations, and could even be used for more general robotics tasks, though we are not optimizing for these use-cases.

On the software front, we are developing a complete OS distribution, development framework, and software suite for tackling a wide range of problems, a significant portion of which is slated to be open-source. All of our software is built on top of ROS2 Foxy (with a mix of pure-DDS here and there), using Eclipse CycloneDDS as the primary target RMW implementation, which has had the best out-of-the-box experience and performance for our applications. In general, we are primarily targeting platforms that run Ubuntu 18.04 and 20.04, as well as Debian Buster and higher (support for Foxy on Ubuntu 18.04 and Debian achieved via building from source).

Some of the out-of-the-box capabilities and features we are targeting in our stack include:

  • Extensibility through ROS2
  • Low-latency, real-time piloting and monitoring
  • Time-synchronized recording and playback of all dive data, via ROS2 bags
  • Teleoperation, streaming, and monitoring over the Internet
  • Multi-vehicle operations
  • A customizable GUI application for interacting with one or more systems, simultaneously
  • Software updates, both local and OTA
  • Support for general MCU applications, leveraging Zephyr RTOS and microROS for communication
  • Docker-based development environment that simplifies building, testing, and deploying software to your system

On the hardware front, we are building custom electronics solutions on top of some of the latest Nvidia SBC solutions that are designed to be used in both greenfield projects and act as full-system upgrades for existing ROV platforms, primarily the BlueROV series.

Areas of development include:

  • Custom motherboard solution that can be used with multiple SBCs (provides power management and many additional sensors and features)
  • Improved motor control solutions (ESCs and control algorithms)
  • Flexible I/O capabilities (UART, I2C, GPIO, SPI, CAN, USB, Ethernet, etc.)
  • Options for built-in MCU components
  • Improved camera, sensor, communication, and manipulator solutions

… and more.

One of the core user groups we are targeting is research institutions and university labs, in the effort to provide a modern, ROS2-based, marine-focused development platform, with all of the familiar tools and libraries that you’ve come to expect in a robotics solution. If you are working in this space and any of this is of interest, please feel free to reach out and let us know how we might be able to best meet your needs!

Stay tuned for more!


Awesome! ROS 2 with Eclipse Foundation’s Cyclone DDS holds up under pressure! 500m down at the bottom of Lake Tahoe thanks to the great folks at Mission Robotics


Happy New Year, everyone!

Tying up loose ends for 2020, we’ve finally got a video to share that answers the age old mystery of “what lies at the deepest depths of Lake Tahoe?”. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say that it ended up being a bit more mundane than many of the myths and urban legends might lead you to believe :smile:

A little bit later in the year, we’ll be sharing more information about our system and how we are using ROS2 to power our marine robotics framework, designed to target ROV, AUV, surface vehicle, and other aquatic applications. Until then, keep an eye out for our next video where we use our system to explore the SS Tahoe, a 52m steamship lying in 130m of water in Lake Tahoe’s Glenbrook Bay.