Nautilus - a Miniature Submarine for Underwater Exploration




About: The BCAMRL is a Mechatronics Research Lab, founded in 2014 on the campus of Bergen County Academies, a magnet high school within the Bergen County Technical School District. Students create innovations base...

Day by day, the planet we inhabit becomes increasingly polluted with unnecessary toxins and waste, all contributed by the human population itself. Over sixty four percent of assessed lake acres along with estuarine square miles do not live up to the standard of cleanliness to support uses such as fishing and swimming. Cost effective quality detection and collection of data is the first step that needs to be taken to prevail over such statistics that still exist in today’s modern world. In order to overcome this complication, we created Nautilus - A Miniature Submarine for Underwater Exploration, a miniature remotely controlled submarine that can be utilized for data collection and analyzation. The submarine will enable users to view underneath a body water through videos captured by a camera mounted in the submarine. The camera is also connected to a monitor and receiver which allows users to watch live footage of the underwater exploration. In addition, to make the device multifunctional, a myriad of sensors is attached to the submarine for data collection. These sensors detect, pH levels, turbidity, oxygen, as well as temperature. After the completion of the project, we will test out the device behind our school in the Hackensack river, to study the pollution in the stream and collect sedimentary samples. Nautilus - A Miniature Submarine for Underwater Exploration will ultimately contribute to scientific research as well as retrieval for investigation purposes.

Step 1: Parts List

-4-inch PVC pipes

-PVC pipe glue

-Billage pumps from Harbor Freight

-Electricity break out boxes

-LED lights cluster from Harbor Freight

-Mini camera

-GoPro sessions

-2 four-inch couplers

-3-inch flange

-3-inch flush-out mount with lock cap

-Silicone glue

-On-off switches

-4 battery packs

-200ft cad wiring

-Half-inch pvc pipes and couplers

-4 hook mounts

-Assorted screws and bolts

-Google glasses clone

Step 2: Main Hull Assembly

The first thing we did was to cut several PVC pipes to the correct sizes as per design, We first create the main hull from a 3” diameter pipe with a length of 17”. This is were all the future electronics would be housed. We used pipe fitting from Home depot or Lowes to build the main frame of the submarine. We used a 3" drain cap with plug and a 3" toilet flange at the other end to attach the camera POD. A 3" bulk head was created to enclose all the electronic.

Step 3: Thruster Tube Assembly

The second set of cuts were the thruster tube, a length of 26” . We then cut the thruster tubes in half in order to add the thruster housing tubes, this is where the thruster are mounted onto the submarine. Thruster housing tubes were 4” pvc pipe. Please note the thruster tubes were shaped to accommodate a 4” pipe vertically.

The pvc pipes were then glued into their appropriate places. All the pvc pipes were now held together in the proper shape with pvc pipe glue.

After the pvc pipes were glued into place the sub itself came together. Light pods were created to protect the lights form water damage and keeping it attached to the sub. Light pods were made from pvc pipe based on the size of the actual light. The light we used was fit into a 3-inch pipe. The pod was made to cover the light and still let the light pass through.

Mini turbines were 3D printed and were then added into their positions atop the motors. The lights and light pods were added in the front of the sub to guide it underwater.

Step 4: Camera/Light PODs

A camera pod was created to protect the camera from water damage and keep it in place in the sub. This camera pod, much like the light pods, was made from pvc pipes. A pipe appropriate in size with the camera was used to house the camera. It was made to fit the camera and let the camera see where the sub would be headed.

Bulk heads were also created to protect the electronics. This was also made from 4-inch pvc pipes that were cut to the height of the turbines to go around it. The bulk heads were made to protect the electronics from being affected by any materials in the water that could potentially get stuck in the turbines.

An up and down boom was also created for the GoPro being added to the outside of the sub. A half inch pvc pipe was shaped to be able to move up and down and have a stand to hold the actual GoPro. The pipe was cut in half and a 3-way elbow pvc pipe was added in the middle to hold the GoPro. This would be the second camera to get a better view and image of the floor of the body of water. It was attached to the front part of the pvc pipes in between the thrusters.

Running lights were also added onto the sub at this point to help guide the sub. Bulk heads were also put in the light pods. At this point, cargo d-ring anchors were added to the top pipes of the sub. Four of these were put onto the sub to be able to pull the sub back to the surface of the water if needed.

Step 5: Prepping for Paint

The sub was then sanded down to roughen it up. This was done to be able to let the spray paint actually stick to the pipes better.

After being sanded down, the entire sub was spray painted. At this point we also added holes around the main pvc pipes holding the sub together to let water enter through the sub faster.

Step 6: Electronics

A remote control system was also created. This system had four switches to it to control up, down, forward, and reverse options. The wireless camera being placed in the sub was also converted from ac to dc for navigation purposes. A CAT 5 network wiring was used as a tether to transfer the sgnals from the remote to the submarine. A black container with and on/off switch was used to disconnect power from the remote control.

Step 7: Finished Sub

The sub was painted and ready with lights, cameras, electronics, and a remote to control.

Step 8: Future Modifications

In the near future we are going to add, PH, Turbidity, Temperture and Oxygen sensors all connected to either a Raspberry PI or Arduino Mega.



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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    What an amazing machine. I love it !!


    2 years ago

    That's really cool! Currently I'm also doing a similar ROV project but smaller and using Tupperware like closure.


    2 years ago

    Really nice job girls!! I'm think i'm going try do this one, swapping the gopro by a cheaper solution. Did you test what the guy told above, about the signals?


    2 years ago

    Cool looking ROV. I
    assume you have not yet had it in the water.
    Some thoughts looking at your design:

    + You mention a wireless camera. Wireless signals do not travel well in
    water. If your signal is above 1 GHz (as
    I suspect with the Google Glasses clone), then the signal will only travel a
    few inches into the water. You may need
    to either add wire to take the wireless signal to the wireless camera, or go
    with a wired camera and bring wires to the surface.

    + Based on the photographs, you will need to cut holes in
    the cowling in front of the propellers to allow water to flow in.

    + It appears that you are bringing wires in a sheath
    directly into the sub. When bringing in
    wires in a sheath, precautions must be taken to avoid water getting to the electronics. If the sheath is nicked (a high probability
    in a rough marine environment), water will travel inside the sheath and into
    the electronic boxes. Solutions can be
    found on the net to avoid this problem.

    + You likely will need to make the Cat5 cable neutral buoyancy
    to avoid it pulling on the sub.

    + The bilge pump motors usually draw around 3A with the
    original impeller and likely are designed to handle up to 14.8V (the charging
    current of a lead acid battery). With
    the impeller replaced by a propeller the current draw of the bilge motors jumps
    to 6A or more, and LiPO 4S batteries will be 16.8V when fully charged. Not sure if any of this will impact you.


    2 years ago

    amazing work so far .. looking forward to seeing the rest of the project documented here

    do you know how fast this sub will be able to travel?

    are you going to keep it tethered with the CAT 5 cable, or will you be planning to switch to wireless controls at some point?

    do you have an estimate of how deep this setup can go before pressure becomes an issue?

    Ace Gambit

    2 years ago

    Great design. Don't know if you mentioned this or not, but around how much did it cost you(not including the go-pro)?


    2 years ago

    Beautiful sub design. Do you have a circuit diagram for the electronics of the vessel?


    2 years ago

    Nice Job! But I think your wrong when you say humans are polluting the earth. Granted we do mess up a lot of things, but God created the world to take care of its self. God has appointed us stewards of it and we should treat it right, but we shouldn't worry about every little thing we think is bad.
    Once again, nice job on the sub!

    4 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you for saying what needed to be said, I am sure the hateful comments are not far behind.


    Reply 2 years ago

    No hateful comments. That's not who I am. Anyhow thank you for you kind response!


    Reply 2 years ago

    I was commenting on the fact that someone will eventually read your comment and start calling you a global warming denier. What you said is completely appropriate...