The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute ( and the Burke Museum at the University of Washington ( conduct fish taxonomy projects around the world. The lead scientists for this project asked OutsideInnovation to design a system for catching new species of fish using a deep sea submersible at depths down to 2250 ft. These projects are always under tight budget constraints and OutsideInnovation provided a totally custom solution that reduced the cost by an order of magnitude compared to competitors. This project is a good example of our ability to design hardware offsite with customers and successfully install it onsite on in a remote location.
TOTALLY CUSTOM SOLUTION
The deep-sea submersible, Idabel, is a uniquely designed submersible so from the outset this project required customization. Couple that with the scientists' requirements for anesthetizing the fish correctly, collecting the fish samples without damaging them, and providing scientists the ability to visually confirm their catch, and this project quickly became a custom job from top to bottom. The submersible is stationed in Roatan, Honduras and the 2 lead scientists for the project live in Seattle, Washington and Panama City, Panama so ensuring the design met the scientists' needs while ensuring the successful installation was an ongoing challenge. Through careful design and constant communication with all project stakeholders, OutsideInnovation was able to produce a high-quality solution that was easy to install at an affordable cost.
The new fish collection system functioned almost flawlessly during its first deployment in 2017. Several dives were required for fine tuning, but ultimately the scientists collected over 20 fish and several new species. The project is scheduled to continue in Roatan, Honduras until 2021. In 2018 the number of specimens collected and new species discovered continued to grow and the scientists expect continued success through 2021. The first publication from their work was released in late 2018 (https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/29280/download/pdf/) highlighting the new species Lipogramma idabelii (pictured here).
The most challenging aspects of this project was the incredibly low cost target. The final system includes 2 primary subsystems. The first subsystem delivers a small, metered amount of anesthetic solution to target fish and the second system collects the sleeping fish via a suction system that uses one of the submersible thrusters as a pump. The scientists requirements for anesthetic delivery and specimen collection were detailed and precise so effectively accomplishing both tasks within the scientists budget was extremely difficult. Key cost reductions were: creative component sourcing for highly technical components, designing a custom deep sea solenoid valve using OTS parts, designing around the need for a robotic arm, and using the existing submersible thruster as a pump.