Introduction: GoPro Underwater Glider
I like getting underwater footage with my gopro but there are two main problems.
1. When you swim with it, there is a lot of wobble, especially if there's waves.
2. Sometimes you don't want to swim in the body of water (too cold).
What I dreamed of was a simple underwater glider. No fancy motor to break, no ballast tanks. Just some kind of rig that would allow the camera to glide forward and down, and then be retrieved by a tether.
Whether exploring a beautiful cold blue spring (see footage), or snorkeling in warm waters but you want to capture some smooth gliding motion, maybe down to deeper depths than you can swim, this rig will do it, easily and cheaply.
Step 1: Materials
- GoPro & dive housing (don't use the vinyl door one)
- GoPro Tripod mount
- 15" X 12" piece of vinyl corrugated roofing
- 18" piece of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC pipe
- three 1/2" PVC end caps
- 1/2" Schedule 40 PVC Snap Tee or Slip Tee
- baling wire
- saw or pvc cutter (preferred)
- bolt: half inch1/4 inch 20 thread (that fits your tripod mount, above)
- Dremel tool or other means to cut roofing
- 50 feet of paracord or other strong, thin cord.
Step 2: Construction
Cut the Roofing: You need to cut out a section of roofing in a triangle shape. Take care when marking this for cutting; it is your wing. The corrugations must be parallel to the direction of travel. There must be a corrugation channel running down the exact center of the glider. The two sides of the glider must be symmetrical. When you place the pipe down the central corrugation in the convex side, the wingtips should curve upward, with the understanding that the side that the PVC pipe is on, is the underside. The dimensions I used were 12" wide, by 15" length. It is more important to make your wing well than to use the exact dimensions I used. Mark it with a sharpie. I cut mine with a dremel diamond wheel, which left the vinyl less sharp. Saw the front point off the triangle so that the blunt end is about as wide as the pipe.
Cut the pipe to fit your wing, making sure to leave a bit sticking out from under each end of the wing so that you can cap the pipe.
Lash the pipe to the wing with baling wire by drilling some holes in the wing at the front and back. I used wire because I didn't want the square boxes on zip ties messing up the streamlining.
Slide on, or snap on the tee connector. Because we used a slide or snap, this can be moved back and forth to adjust the center of gravity.
Cap the pipe on both ends.
Short piece. Put a short piece of pvc in the t - connector, and cut it off pretty short, just long enough so that you can put a cap on it.
Drill the third cap. Drill a hole through the center of the cap, and put the bolt through the cap.
Install cap. Put the cap in place on the short length hanging down.
Attach mount. Screw the camera mount onto the protruding bolt.
Attach tether. Tie the tether to the PVC pipe tee with a foot of tail on the knot. With the tail, tie your camera directly into the system, using either a GoPro tether around the metal rod in the housing door, or making your own with some fishline. Highest priority is to not lose your camera!
Step 3: Launch!
A swimming pool is a fantastic place for a trial run. Or you can use a local dock or pier. You don't need to do anything to launch the glider, just set it in the water and let gravity go to work. If you want it to dive more steeply, slide the camera more forward, or the opposite if a more shallow angle is desired.
For your first run, you really should be prepared to jump in to save your camera in case the unthinkable happens, so test it in shallow water.
I took it for it's real first voyage in a blue spring, check out the video to see what is possible.
Welcome to a new world of underwater exploration!
6 years ago
How do you manage buoyancy? Where is the center of gravity? Do the PVC tubes have holes to allow air out/ water in? Have you tried it in salt water? How would you alter buoyancy for salt?
Reply 6 years ago
Buoyancy isn't as important as you think. It just needs to be slightly negative. The important thing is center of gravity, which affects angle of attack, which controls rate of descent. In the instructions I make a big deal of altering the center of gravity in the field to suit by sliding the camera back and forth. The pipes stay sealed and full of air. If you want to experiment with buoyancy, you can bring multiple lengths of pipes, or start long and do some cutting in the field. I haven't tried saltwater, but it shouldn't matter too much. If you find the rig floats in salt, you can just let a little water in, or put a dowel down the center pipe, plenty of fixes for that.