Getting Ready for Your First Dive

Before putting the vehicle in the water, there are a few things which will need to be checked.

The first dive should be in a body of water that is shallow, still, and clear. A pool or a test tank is recommended. Testing in a more controlled environment will provide a good opportunity to check that the vehicle is ballasted correctly. It will also confirm that the controller is set up correctly and vehicle is behaving as expected.

Connecting Batteries/Power Supply

To get ready for your first dive, the vehicle will need to be powered.


  1. Plug a fully charged battery into the vehicle's power distribution system, or
  2. Turn the power supply ON after reading and understanding the manufacturers instructions.

Setting up Your Topside Control

Connect the following to the Topside Computer:

  1. Vehicle tether (through the appropriate interface, if used)
  2. Joystick

Controller Functions

The ArduSub firmware comes with the button setup shown below as a default:

Buttons may be reassigned though the following steps:

  1. Go to Vehicle Setup View then select “Joystick”.
  2. The “Button Assignment” tab shows what all the buttons are currently set to control.
  3. Press the button that you are interested in changing. The button number will light up.
  4. Select what you would like the button to do from the dropdown to the right of the button number.

Dive Modes

  • In Manual Mode the vehicle will only output motor controls based on the pilot input from the joysticks. There is no feedback stabilization, heading holding, or depth holding.
  • In Stabilize Mode the vehicle will stabilize roll to level and it will maintain heading when not commanded to turn. The vertical control is left entirely to the pilot.
  • In Depth Hold Mode the vehicle will hold depth unless you command it to dive/ascend. It will also stabilize roll to level and maintain heading when not commanded to turn.

Pre-Dive Checklist

  • Put the vehicle on the ground and make sure that people are clear of the thrusters.
  • Check to make sure the camera tilt function and lights work. If they do not, please see the Troubleshooting section.
  • Put the vehicle in Manual Mode.
  • Arm the ROV.
  • Press the forward/reverse stick forward to check that the vectored thrusters are spinning freely.
  • Press the ascend/descend stick forward to check that the vertical thrusters are spinning freely.
  • Disarm the ROV.
  • Launch.

All Launches

  • Do not launch the vehicle near swimmers or divers.
  • Do not release the vehicle prior to it touching the water. If necessary, use the tether to lower it down. When lowereing the vehicle, keep the dome away from any hard or sharp objects.
  • Do not launch in water that is too shallow to freely drive the vehicle.
  • Keep the vehicle away from boats that do not know that the vehicle is in the water.
  • Do not arm until the vehicle is in the water and the launcher is clear of the vehicle.

Boat Launch

  • Keep the vehicle and tether clear of the boat’s propellers or jets.
  • Make sure that the captain of the boat knows that the ROV is about to be launched.

Shore Launch

  • Do not launch the vehicle in heavy surf.
  • The vehicle may need to be walked into the water to get to a point where the water is deep enough to drive the ROV.


Tether Management

When diving an ArduSub vehicle, the tether will require some active management. Here are some guidelines for good tether management:

  • Keep the tether away from propellers or jets if you are operating on a boat.
  • Keep the tether and vehicle away from other boats that are not aware that it is in the water.
  • Keep the tether away from sharp objects such as coral, rocks, etc.
  • Do not deploy too much tether. Excess tether in the water will add drag to the vehicle and provide an opportunity for the tether to get caught on something.
  • Do not deploy the tether over sharp edges or rough ground.
  • Do not step on the tether.

Driving Guidelines

  • Do not drive into a sandy bottom. If you do drive into a sandy bottom, stop driving the vehicle and allow it to float up to prevent sand from getting into the vertical thrusters.
  • Drive smoothly and on low gain when possible to maximize battery life.
  • Do not touch coral with the ROV to prevent damage to the coral.
  • Avoid driving into seaweed when possible. Seaweed can get sucked into and stop the thrusters from spinning.
  • When diving, it is helpful to follow down a chain or a line to give a frame of reference.

Battery Monitoring

  • Be sure to occasionally glance at the battery voltage in the instrument panel.
  • It is recommended to recover the vehicle once the battery reaches 12.5V to avoid discharging below 12.0V, which can permanently damage a 4S battery or shorten its lifespan.


Disarm the vehicle prior to attempting to recover it.

Powered Recovery

Recoveries will typically be when the vehicle is under power.

  • The pilot should find the tether and follow it back to the launching area.
  • While the pilot is driving back pull in the tether slack. Clean debris off of the tether and inspect for cuts or nicks while pulling in.
  • When the vehicle arrives back to the launching location, disarm it.
  • Pick up the vehicle directly if practical, or pull the it up using the tether. Avoid sharp or hard object while lifting by the tether; allow space for the vehicle to swing.
  • Disconnect the battery or shut the power supply off.

Unpowered Recovery

If the vehicle loses power or connection to QGroundControl while diving:

  • Pull the tether in at a moderate pace. Don’t try to pull it in as fast as possible.

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