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AusOcean Rig Overview Guide
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AusOcean Rig Overview Guide

Revised: 7th February 2020


Scott Barnard <>

Saxon Nelson-Milton <>

Ella Pietraroia <>

Trek Hopton <>


Copyright © The Australian Ocean Laboratory Limited (AusOcean) 2020-2022.

The information contained herein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence.


AusOcean rigs are maritime infrastructure and must be deployed at sea only with approvals from relevant regulatory authorities. Typically a Notice to Mariners (NTM) will be issued to advise mariners of the rig’s location and flashing light sequence.

If you are constructing a rig as part of the Network Blue program, please contact us as AusOcean handles all regulatory approvals.

AusOcean is not liable for any losses, damages, costs and/or other consequences resulting directly or indirectly from using or relying on the information in this document.

Table of contents

1.0 Introduction        4

2.0 Assembly - Standard Functionality        5

2.1 Platform        5

2.2 Controller        5

2.4 Powered Components        5

2.5 Underwater Camera        5

3.0 Assembly - Extended Functionality        6

4.0 Software Configuration        6

4.1 Software installation        6

4.2 Cloud Configuration        6

5.0 Integration Testing        6

5.1 Pressure Vessel        6

5.0 Deployment        7

5.1 Site Approval        7

5.2 Screw Pile Mooring Installation        7

5.3 Rig Deployment Guide        7

5.4 Rig Maintenance Guide        7

1.0 Introduction to the Rig

1.1 This Document

This document is the starting point for building an AusOcean rig. It provides an overview of AusOcean guides which contain the detailed steps required to build a rig.

We are always improving our guides, if you have suggestions or questions, then add a comment to the document or contact us via

1.2 Rig Design and Construction Overview

The "rig" is AusOcean's sea surface platform for supporting ocean science in coastal waters. It has been designed to meet the following requirements:

The rig is a custom pontoon design in a light-weight modular construction. The pontoons, braced by steel crossbars, provide a stable and buoyant platform, similar to the bridge deck of a catamaran. Two solar panels span each side of this platform. Projecting vertically from the platform is a highly visible pole, known as the mast, which houses the electronics inside. Both the pontoons and the mast are built from low-cost but durable stormwater-grade PVC, and the frame is made from metal (steel and aluminium). The rig's batteries are located in a water-proof compartment just above sea level, contributing to the rig's low centre of gravity and good stability. The rig is further stabilised by a weight suspended below the rig (the "centre weight"), which in addition to providing the function of a keel, maintains mooring line tension. The pontoons, mast and batteries can be easily disassembled and reassembled.

Traditional, vertically-oriented "pear-shaped" buoys with heavy keels (to provide ballast), provide either limited space and/or poor orientation for solar panels. In contrast, the rig's design affords the maximum horizontal surface area for its size, in turn maximising the capacity of the rig's solar panels.

1.3 Safety

The rig incorporates the features of a maritime "special mark", notably a bright-yellow pole (the mast) and a yellow-flashing navigation light, which can be seen up to 1.5 nautical miles away. By default, the navigation light flashes 3 times for 1 second, then repeats every 30 seconds. The sequence is controlled by an onboard microcomputer (described below) and is fully configurable.

1.4 Electrical Systems

The rig's electrical system is 24V DC. Power is generated by two 40W solar panels, and energy is stored in two 14Ah 12V batteries, providing 336Wh of energy (28Ah). Each rig comes standard with an ESP8266 microcontroller which performs mission-critical functions, such as the navigation light, battery monitoring and power management. Each rig also comes standard with rig-to-shore communications equipment and the standard sensor pack, which includes:

Other sensors may be added upon request, subject to operating within the rig's power budget. AusOcean is continually adding support for new sensors.

1.5 Management and Operations

In addition to having the onboard capabilities described above, rigs are connected to the Internet, and therefore form part of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). By virtue of being connected, rigs are remotely manageable via AusOcean's NetReceiver cloud service. Note however that the rig's mission-critical functions are not dependent on network connectivity.

2.0 Assembly

2.1 Platform

Rig construction involves the assembly of many smaller components such as the pontoons, mast, battery and solar panels. Different components can be worked on simultaneously by separate groups if it is convenient. Once the rig is assembled, the electronics and sensors need to be fitted, and the software configured (see sections 2.2 onwards)

AusOcean Rig Mechanical Assembly Guide

2.2 Controller

The rig control unit manages all electronic components attached to the rig. This includes, the navigation light sequencing, battery monitoring, power control and standard sensors.

AusOcean has two rig controller versions. The first can be built using an adafruit protoboard, and the second can be built from an AusOcean rig controller board PCB. The PCB version is available in kit form for participating network blue schools, but will eventually be available for purchase on the AusOcean website.

Protoboard Guide

PCB Guide

2.4 Electrical Systems

The electrical systems of the rig include the router, navlight, charge controller, battery, sensors and the rig controller board.

AusOcean Electrical Systems Guide

2.5 Underwater Camera (Hard Shell)

AusOcean Underwater Camera Assembly Guide

The AusOcean Underwater Camera is a low-cost Internet Protocol (IP) digital video camera used for monitoring the sea floor. Unlike most consumer video cameras it is designed for continuous streaming of video data and continuous immersion up to depths of 20m. The underwater camera is based on the Raspberry Pi Zero and the Raspberry Pi Camera and can be built for A$60 in electronic parts and A$10 in PVC and acrylic parts.

Making an underwater camera involves making a waterproof housing, connecting up the electronic components and installing software. It is important to finish all electronic work and software installation before sealing up the camera. Complete cameras are tested for waterproofness before being put out at sea.

2.7 Underwater Speaker (with module)

4.0 Software

4.1 RV (Revid)

RV Software Guide

4.2 Cloud Configuration

Cloud Configuration

5.0 Integration Testing

5.1 Pressure Vessel

AusOcean Pressure Vessel Testing Guide

The pressure testing vessel allows for emulation of water pressures seen at depths where sensing/actuation equipment may be located. This allows for testing of underwater housing before deployment.

Before putting an underwater camera out at sea, it needs to be tested for waterproofness. This can be done using this pressure vessel. Schools who are part of the Network Blue program can get AusOcean to test cameras for them.

5.0 Rig Deployment/Management

5.1 Site Approval

AusOcean rigs are maritime infrastructure and must be deployed at sea only with approvals from relevant regulatory authorities. Typically a Notice to Mariners (NTM) will be issued to advise mariners of the rig’s location and flashing light sequence.

If you are constructing a rig as part of the Network Blue program, please contact us as AusOcean handles all regulatory approvals.

5.2 Screw Pile Mooring Installation

Screw Pile Mooring Installation Guide

5.3 Rig Deployment Guide

Rig Deployment Guide

5.4 Rig Maintenance Guide

Rig Maintenance Guide

5.5 Rig Monitoring

Rig Monitoring Guide

The Australian Ocean Laboratory Limited (AusOcean)