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Ch'tiPlouf, a subaquatic robot

A robot for the general inventory of subaquatic biodiversity

About the project

Hello. My name is Florent and I'm french. I've always liked to see and show what's going on underwater. I have been doing it for more than 10 years using photo and for 3 years using video.
In doing that, I spotted several small sections of canals without barges and where recently a rather clean water is coming back. An extraordinary phenomenon of renaturation occurs, with subaqueous landscapes sometimes absolutely spectacular. I decided in 2004 to start documenting this phenomenon. With some experts and enthusiasts we have discovered in Lille (north of France) some 20 underwater species unexpected, sometimes rare and a species very probably new for Europe (this is a totally subaqueous mushroom, and there is only one known case, in North America).


Millions of people every day walk along the banks and coastlines without seeing or knowing what is going on underwater. We want to share our images, especially for schools and scientists, and with Wikipedia. I think I can make images even more beautiful and hopeful ( because they show that where nature becomes clean again, if not overexploited,  it is sometimes repaired very quickly).

As explained (with examples) the video below, to better observe and photograph this renaturation and complete our inventories we need a mini-ROV (a small subaquatic robot or drone). It will help us explore wetlands, underground streams, quarries, environments and canals, etc. to show you their wonders, and to encourage to protect them.

Our goals are:

1 °) Scientifics: subaquatic photo + video, for the general inventory of subaquatic biodiversity ;

2 °) Aesthetics: show and illustrate the beauty and poetry of the underwater world (photos) ;

3 °) Pedagogics: videos, photos on Wikipedia + a book presenting the most remarkable species observed at the beginning of this project.

Originality: Dozens of subaquatic robots exist. But they are expensive and/or  heavy (examples above) or poorly performing in the murky waters where we did our spotting and first tests (at 3 or 4 m depth it is totally dark at noon in the middle of summer). A new generation of mini-ROVs appeared, but is still unsuitable for difficult environments (brambles, roots, submerged branches and especially long and strong filamentous algae).

 

Our challenge :  a small robot, fairly inexpensive, stable and easy to control, for photographing under water without disrupting the environment. If our budget allows that  : a drone version and / or 3D vision and additional modules will be tested.

More: an ethical and altruistic project:

1. We want to produce hundreds of high-quality pictures and videos to illustrate Wikipedia (and wikibook, wikiversity, wikispecies ...). The most interesting files will be freely deposited and stored (by hundreds or even thousands) in Wikimedia Commons (the base of images and videos that illustrates Wikipedia), in "open license" creative commons CC-BY-SA 4.0.

2. We want to collaboratively build this robot. Plans will be open source, especially for schools, universities and enthusiasts and who will want. We want to share data, for scientific purposes (via citizen, participatory and crowd science, for example).

3. Furthermore, we are experimenting with Wikiversity as a collaborative and open research platform and laboratory (F. Lamiot has been wikimédien for more than 10 years, and other Wikipedia wikipedians have joined the project). You can follow the progress of the project (and even give your opinion or contribute) on this platform.

All contacts we had with french roboticists, INRIA, engineering schools, including at the Maker Fair Lille 2016 were very positive. More than 10 engineering schools and universities are based within a radius of 10 km around the prototype test site. Several fablabs are nearby. And a “TechShop” will open in March 2017 in Lille (near a canal !) and near Euratechnology (digital ecosystem of 256 companies) basins.

What are the funds for?

Depending on the level of your donations, funding will be used for ulule management costs (8%), manufacturing and shipping counterparts (8%) and one or more robot prototypes (64%), Inventory, produce and legend images, a video and a book project and to events such as conference, hackathon... (20%) ;

We will test this new mode of inventory of underwater biodiversity (in Lille).

* For 9000 euros, we can adapt an existing robot (mini-Rov) as well as the new Nikon camera (500 €) to our needs (+ cable, waterproof laptop, insurance and logistics costs for sea testing ...). Each prototype carries two subaquatic torches (2x 500 €), two flashes connected by optical fibers, special batteries and we need two sets of spare batteries ;

* For 15 000 euros, the images will be further improved by computer means and by a reinforced control of the stability of the camera in the turbulences ;

* For 20 000 euros, we test an optical improvement, an embedded computer system, more complex, an improved man-machine interface (ex: control and return system compatible with spray and sun, voice command, Etc.)

* For 30,000 euros a floating mini-relay station could be tested, or an organized hackathon-ideathon (with presence of makers and experts, possibly in a techShop)

* For a further € 30,000, two Nikon high-definition waterproof cameras can be combined (+ a "rearview mirror") to test the 3D view in vision helmet. An integrated control of samplers and probes can be tested. Thanks to the financing of hours of experts / engineers and the help of universities and grandes écoles, mutualabs, etc.

* With 60 000 euros, we add a strong educational dimension (Salaries of invited experts (experts in drones, robotics, optics ...) for animation of workshops "makers" with the students.

* With 100 000 €, a version "drone" (wireless) will be tried; Very useful or necessary in complex environments (mangroves, brambles and submerged branches), or inaccessible (small underground rivers ...) or in case of health risk or impossibility of diving for safety reasons (risk of landslide, pollution…).

* With 350 000 € we could test a totally innovative envelope (soft robotics) and much more "biomimetic" solutions (with schools of engineers and perhaps with the CEEBIOS of Senlis).

This program is indicative, it will evolve according to the opportunities, the associated skills, the technical evolutions of the materials (rapid in the field of robotics, computer science and electronics) and according to feedback.

The more important your donation, the more we can implement the ideal specifications and give you the opportunity to enjoy magnificent photos and video. Here is a video of underwater landscapes and rare species filmed on future robot testing sites in Lille (northern France in a subnatural renaturation zone). These images were made "by hand", this work  required about 6 years of photo tracking, 4 years of video shooting and some risks for my health. The robot Ch'ti plouf will be able to photograph and film in much better conditions (and maybe with 3D system if your donations are very numerous or important) and it will bring images even more magnificent and scientifically important.

 

About the project owner

The team dedicated to crowdfunding:

The bearer of the Ch'tiPlouf project: Florent has a threefold initial training (of scientist-ecologist, artist / history of art and teacher). After a few years of practice as designer and illustrator, he has been working for about 25 years in the field of the environment. He’s also teacher in some engineering schools, universities [including popular and free time], institutes.. about environment, climate and biodiversity. Appreciating heuristic and collaborative approaches, he contributed to Wikipedia and other wikis for about 10 years.

The team dedicated to financing: Eric is the ecologist of the group. Cédric is a scientist and research director at RIZOMM. Adélie is our financial expert, Kilian our support "International Management" Nicolas is our Mr. "Digital Commerce" and Alexis brings his skills in Business Management.

The present project is prepared on Wikiversity (in French). The "ideal" specification of the robot is available to everyone (via the right-hand side of the home page). This project was also prepared with "makers" (in Lille and Roubaix), ecologists (in addition to the master students of the Rizomm, the multidisciplinary university platform that welcomed us in 2016-2017).

The project also has a facebook page (and there will also be uploads on You tube).

 

FAQ

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