I built an ROV to solve missing person cases


1183 points | by craydandy 15 days ago


  • 0xFEE1DEAD 12 days ago
    Although it has already been said close to 137 times, this is the best read I've had this year, although that's likely an understatement. I love the hacking spirit and how they always settle on the simplest solution, whether from a technical standpoint or an investigative one.

    Great job, and I'm glad they got the recognition they deserve. Shout out to the Finnish police as well for not letting their ego interfere with information brought to them by a couple of random amateurs. This should be the norm, but sadly it isn’t.

    • telesilla 12 days ago
      Yes just riviting and at the end, very emotional knowing what peace they brought to their parents. I'm also so glad they got the presidential recognition they deserved.
  • andrelaszlo 14 days ago
    This is amazing. A Finnish man gets curious about a missing persons case. He does some great detective work, and builds an ROV with side scanning sonar and video. The outcome, with some help from his brother, is just spectacular. I couldn't stop reading!
    • bemmu 13 days ago
      It's absolutely brilliant.

      Everyone has watched a TV show where a case is slowly being solved, but who actually considers that oh yeah, I could actually become the person who searches for a random missing person case, instead of watching it on Netflix?

      And the amount of McGyvering involved! How many people would have given up at one of the steps? Oh it requires coding in C++ for Arduino, sure, I'll just do that. Oh, it requires me to contact manufacturers to manufacture something, which I have never done, and I don't even know how to use a 3D modeling program. Sure, I'll just learn how to do that and then actually have it made. Pretty sure the give-up rate there would be very high!

      If this were TV, people would hardly consider it plausible. And they did it, for real. And all out of just pure curiosity!

      • Natsu 13 days ago
        I'm surprised someone hasn't made a miniseries out of this yet. It'd make a good one.
        • darkwater 12 days ago
          Maybe someone from Netflix engineering is reading this and passing the idea to someone tied with content production...
          • krallja 8 hours ago
            It’s funny that we all read forty pages of a “nobody” solving missing persons cases, and then we say “I would watch this miniseries if SOMEONE ELSE pitched it to Netflix.”

            (Netflix employees have to pitch stories via agents, just like any “nobody” would, FWIW.)

    • spaceship__sun 13 days ago
      This is giving post-scarcity civilization vibes...
  • nstart 13 days ago
    Joining the chorus to say that this is one of the greatest articles I’ve read. I love everything about it. From the hacker spirit to the investigative reasoning to the little observations made during the process like what could be considered a weapon according to regulations and how Covid affected costs of different items and when to consider o ring size in the planning. Love love love it.

    My favorite line had to be this though.

    > The first prototype didn’t look like much but the mental effect was enormous. Now there was at least something to show and improve.

    worthy of being printed and framed.

  • lemonlime0x3C33 14 days ago
    This was incredibly well written and the project itself was super cool to see come together. I worked on building UAV's in University but seeing the unique challenges with dealing with water from a signals perspective was really intriguing.

    Good luck with any future cases and can't wait to see what upgrades you make!

    • udev 13 days ago
      Except for not defining what an ROV is.
  • throwaway81523 13 days ago
    The article doesn't say so, but some web search and deepl.com translation makes it sound like the second missing person may have died by suicide. When they first found the sunken car, they wondered (presuming that the car had gone off the road by accident) how the heck the car had ended up so far out into the water. The answer might be that it didn't fall off the road, but rather was driven off at high speed on purpose, with the express intention of making it hard to find afterwards. :(
    • Natsu 13 days ago
      I liked how they used logic to narrow things down to just what was verifiable and only ended up searching a few spots in the end. It makes me feel like the police should work with them to solve other missing persons cases.
      • spaceship__sun 13 days ago
        Yeah it's first principles reasoning, just like coding and manufacturing lol!
    • 0xDEAFBEAD 12 days ago
      >The taxi driver later said that there wasn’t anything unusual about Juha or his behavior. He just seemed to have sat in an uncomfortable manner, like he had hurt his back. He also said Juha might have been a bit tipsy.

      Perhaps intoxication + a muscle spasm caused him to floor the gas at some point? Maybe his leg fell asleep while driving?

  • dang 14 days ago
    • cryptonector 14 days ago
      TFA is nothing short of amazing and absolutely deserves attention.

      The author (and his brother) built (from scratch!) a side-scan sonar remote controlled boat and an ROV (a remote controlled submersible) with a camera and a light, and with this they found TWO missing persons' cars under water. Real products of these sorts would have cost enormous amounts of money, but they built their own for the cost of parts and labor (sure, lots of labor). They did this on a lark.

      • sleepybrett 14 days ago
        You can buy similar off the shelf, the way these diy projects go it may have been cheaper in the long run, but more power to him. It can be hard to drop 5 grand on a kitted out submarine when you think you might be able to do it for 2k in parts in your own labor, but in my experience that 2k in parts starts to creep up as you accidentally destroy things, determine that the things you bought and can't return won't quite work, etc.

        There is a guy that has been using one of the off the shelf ones in the lakes around seattle (https://www.youtube.com/@rctestflight/videos), he's also built a bunch of other rc stuff including a few autonomous boats that he takes into the lakes as well as the sound.

      • Natsu 13 days ago
        Yeah, this was a good read and definitely the kind of material I come to HN to read.
    • thecatspaw 14 days ago
      Thanks for giving it a second chance. I read all of it, and it was very interesting indeed
    • emmelaich 14 days ago
      In the video in part8, at 0:30s there's something that could be a hand. I hope it wasn't a hand. There's no comment in the text of what it might be.
    • lxgr 14 days ago
      Would be great to be able to read all of these as a single article! (I'm intrigued, but I'm not saving 13 blog posts to my read-it-later app. Even stitched together, it wouldn't be the longest in my list by a long shot.)
      • dang 14 days ago
        I agree and sometimes email authors to ask if they would compile (or should I say link?) a multipart article into a single piece before we put it into the second-chance pool. But even I was afraid of how long this one would turn out to be.
      • aidenn0 14 days ago
        For articles like these, I use shiori; it's a webclipper that saves html to an sqlite database. Then you can concatenate them with a single sql statement. If the final product is particularly long, then I use calibre convert the result to an epub to read on my phone and/or ereader.
      • gowld 12 days ago
        It's just one article, with 13 pages. There are page-turn buttons, like in a book. You can do it. Bookmark the first page.
  • jumploops 14 days ago
    This is the best thing I've read on HN in months.

    Hats off to the author and his willingness to combine his curiosity and skillset in such a rewarding way. We need more people like him.

  • lnyng 14 days ago
    One of the best articles I have read for years. It's easy to underestimate how difficult it is to make things "just work" in the first trial. I really envy the author's ability to plan for known and unknown situations. Marvelous job!
  • _hbro 14 days ago
    > So where was he going? I saw two possibilities: either to Tikkakoski to visit his ex-girlfrind he was on the phone with or; just to drive around with a new powerful car, to shake off the heated phone call.

    I don't understand how suicide isn't at the top of the list here. He was obviously very upset emotionally. He didn't care for his belongs other than his phone. He didn't care to steal someone's car or answer for it. He never shows up anywhere.

    • aetherson 14 days ago
      I think very few people commit suicide by driving a car into a river.
      • _hbro 14 days ago
        People have committed or failed suicide attempts in probably any way we can imagine.
        • aetherson 14 days ago
          Certainly. But some are much more common than others, and if you're playing the odds, as you must in these kinds of events, we can say that it's much more likely for an inexperienced driver to have an accident on pitch black wet roads, than that they attempted suicide in this unusual way.
    • trinsic2 13 days ago
      Why would he bring his phone though?
      • Hamuko 12 days ago
        Why not? If you're planning a suicide, does it ultimately matter if your phone is in your pocket or at a log cabin?
      • bigiain 13 days ago
        Mine lives in my pocket. I pretty much bring it everywhere I go.
      • _hbro 13 days ago
        To send last messages before he kills himself? Call for help if he backs out?
  • HanClinto 14 days ago
    Absolutely fantastic read. The author got nerd-sniped HARD by these missing-person cases and his approach and accomplishments are inspiring, to say the least. Very well done!
    • rblatz 14 days ago
      For the first case I kept wondering why they needed so much complicated technology. The water they’re searching isn’t all that deep a cheap canoe and a long pole with a go pro, and a magnet on a rope would have been equally effective, cheaper, and faster. But for the second case that they needed the be able to search a much wider area and the tire tracks likely wouldn’t have been visible in on a camera. Really cool project though.

      For the ROV I was wondering why not build something heavier than water but have it on lines attached to buoys, then to go up/down you just climb or down the ropes. Not as maneuverable but not certain if it’s significantly less maneuverable.

      • jumploops 14 days ago
        > For the first case I kept wondering why they needed so much complicated technology.

        "It's always in the last place I looked"

        I think we're seeing the first few guesses for where the car might be, but according to the author, there was a 40km distance between the cabin and the girlfriend's town.

        Hindsight is 20/20, but I wouldn't put it past the author to commit beyond 3 search sites, some of which may require deeper and larger bodies of water (like the second investigation did).

        • flaminHotSpeedo 13 days ago
          Also by my interpretation it sounds like the author welcomed the excuse for a project
  • nickmcc 13 days ago
    The team at CPSdrone (3D printed submersibles) made a very similar project to hunt for and identify a sunken plane: https://youtu.be/QnBfJzApJMg?si=vFGqMrqZOgFXMAoV

    They also used an ArduRover powered catamaran and the same brand Sonar, but made a smaller deployable ROV.

  • fusslo 14 days ago
    I love these long-form build logs.

    I just started reading, and I am making the faux-pas of commenting before finishing.

    But, I'm wondering what the challenges are of automating the ROV to map a body of water's floor in a pattern. like a grid pattern, or whatever is most efficient.

    At first I was thinking currents would cause displacement. but can't we sense the current moving us in undesirable ways and correct with thrusters?

    And then I thought.. do lakes have currents? Do they have tides? can a ROV sense the boundary of a lake?

    just further down the rabbit hole, realizing how little I've learned about the natural environment!

    • tetha 13 days ago
      Lübecks university has several projects[1] using swarms of robots for automatic cartography, water measurements and such.

      Autonomous accurate navigation under water is quite complicated, because after a certain point you need to start relying on local sensors because nothing reaches you anymore. But local sensors tend to be weird, because a straight line underwater is not necessarily a straight line - you are most likely drifting -- and detecting drift isn't easy. From a local observer, the water around you isn't even moving. That was a fun team to talk with.

      1: https://www.iti.uni-luebeck.de/en/research-areas/mobile-robo...

      • fusslo 13 days ago
        so cool; thank you for the link
    • jarofgreen 13 days ago
      Lakes can have currents.

      I wonder if pedantically speaking the definition of lake would include non-tidal in many countries but ....

      A) humans use names sloppily and if it's an important detail I wouldn't assume a lake is non-tidal without checking.

      B) non-tidal bodies of water might still change height over the year, for example after a heavy rainfall.

      Mainly I'd question the need to automate it. It's difficult, and in many cases the cost of a human to drive it is tiny compared to all the other costs you need to pay so just do that (as in the article - those weren't automated). Also, driving them can be fun :-)

      • eythian 12 days ago
        Rarely (as far as I know), lakes can be tidal in their own way. For example Lake Wakatipu changes by about 10cm every half an hour.
    • relaxing 14 days ago
      My brother in christ we cannot even keep a robot on land rolling in a straight line without an external source of ground truth.

      The way to do it is have a boat with GPS tow your sensor array.

    • rkangel 13 days ago
      Note that ROV stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle - it is not autonomous, it is controlled by a person.

      What you are describing would be called a UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) or AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle).

  • hoseja 13 days ago
    I'm not even that impressed by the DIY tech but by the incredible detective insight this man seems to have to just guess three likely sites and be correct and not having to search half of Finland.
  • fnordpiglet 14 days ago
    I throughly enjoyed reading the entire story. However I found it strange he sort of ended with “they searched for the car and asked us to leave.” The first one they got thanked profusely. But at no point did the author ever claim to have definitively found the car or the body. It’s humble but almost oddly so. Anyway great story.
    • klausjensen 13 days ago
      Finnish people are typically quite humble and don't invite a lot of attention.
      • fnordpiglet 12 days ago
        Yes I anticipated that’s the answer but it’s pretty interesting to see in fact. :-)
    • jonah 14 days ago
      He did say there was a front page article about that case.
      • fnordpiglet 14 days ago
        I know. But a natural conclusion would be “they found the car with his body inside it” or something similar. There was never a clear affirmation of success or detail of what success looked like. It’s ok! Just weird.
        • throwaway81523 13 days ago
          The news coverage discusses it a bit. The police identified the body by DNA analysis, which presumably took a while after the car had been located. Reading between the lines, I think there may be some details that the author didn't want to get into. The victims have living relatives who don't need the gruesome specifics to be dragged out.
  • neontomo 14 days ago
    Without a doubt the most interesting article I've read here. If they didn't sink in a car, am I correct to assume the bodies would have surfaced eventually?
    • resolutebat 14 days ago
      Highly unlikely, since I presume all car windows would have been closed (winter in Finland is COLD) and they would have been strapped in with seatbelts. It's difficult to escape from a submerged car even in the best of circumstances, and being suddenly plunged into near-freezing water in the black of night is far from that.
      • neontomo 13 days ago
        While your reply is interesting to me, what I actually was asking was, "if these people died in circumstances that did NOT involve a car, but in the water, would the bodies have been found eventually because they float to the surface?"
        • recursivecaveat 13 days ago
          Apparently bodies sink initially, float temporarily for a while due to bloating, then return to the bottom again after some decomposition. So you could easily miss the window if there are not good conditions to beach it I guess?
  • noman-land 14 days ago
    I didn't expect to read this whole piece but it was completely gripping. Outstanding work and a really great write up.
    • krallja 8 hours ago
      I got actual shivers when he found the tracks in the lake. Amazing detective work.
  • tamimio 14 days ago
    I loved the project!! I also like how “messy” the room is, reminded me of my room (1) when I was working from home years ago.

    I haven’t read the whole thing but I will, however, I did go through the technical details, some notes:

    > This model didn’t have a long enough range on the analog sticks

    I see you are using Radiomaster tx16s, pro tip: You can use ELRS 2W model on BOTH transmitter and the receiver, don’t use the typical receiver unit, use another transmitter and flash it as a receiver, and you would have 2W on both sides, preferably 900mhz not 2.4ghz, and you would’ve hundreds of kilometers of range and strong obstacles penetration.

    For the camera and the tether, technically you can get rid of the tether and use wireless comms, but probably what you did is the best for bucks solution.

    Overall, looks great!

    (1) https://tamim.io/professional_projects/nerds-heavy-lift-dron...

    • jonah 14 days ago
      I took the comment[1] on the analog sticks to be referring to the game controller pictured directly above: https://suanto.com/assets/2024/03/the-ROV-controller.jpg

      I'm guessing that the range of resistance values over the full swept range of the sticks was small, and so getting precise enough values/smooth enough change out of it wasn't possible. (Assuming these things basically have X and Y potentiometers for each stick.)

      [1] https://suanto.com/2024/06/06/the-time-I-built-an-ROV-06/

      • bigiain 14 days ago
        > I'm guessing that the range of resistance values over the full swept range of the sticks was small

        My assumption was they meant the distance of movement on those small joysticks was too small, so the precision problem wasn't measuring the resistance, but in accurately moving the sticks to the right place to get the desired control input when they only have tiny amounts of travel.

    • rrr_oh_man 14 days ago
      Access denied - The owner of this website (tamim.io) does not allow hotlinking to that resource
      • tamimio 14 days ago
        Sorry my bad, I added an exclusion rule, thanks.
  • jonah 14 days ago
    The quest he mentions as inspiration - Tom Mahood's "The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans" - is a fascinating read and worth your time.


    I first read it seven years ago and similar to the author, it inspired me to join my local Search & Rescue team which has been incredibly rewarding. I highly recommend doing that to anyone who wants to combine a love of the outdoors, specialized skills, serving the community, and helping people in their worst moments. (And doesn't mind getting up at 3am in pouring rain and going out and pushing through dense underbrush for hours!)

    • conscion 13 days ago
      If anyone is unable to access the otherhand.org site, it's available on the WaybackMachine https://web.archive.org/web/20240604123006/https://www.other...
    • dang 13 days ago

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans (2012) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=40568151 - June 2024 (2 comments)

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans (2012) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=34676129 - Feb 2023 (147 comments)

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32871761 - Sept 2022 (3 comments)

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans (2012) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23582417 - June 2020 (75 comments)

      Hunt for the Death Valley Germans (2015) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19263057 - Feb 2019 (38 comments)

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12019567 - July 2016 (61 comments)

      The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9723065 - June 2015 (1 comment)

    • lnwlebjel 14 days ago
      Is there a fitness test for SAR? Do you train to stay fit enough for it?
      • jonah 14 days ago
        Yes. It varies from team to team. Ours is a 4.1 mile hike (with 2,500+ ft. Elevation gain) carrying a 25 lb pack in under 2 and 1/2 hours.

        I'm also a volunteer firefighter and the "pack test" level of Work Capacity Test for wildland firefighters is 3 mi on flat ground carrying a 45 lb pack in 45 minutes.

        It is pretty important to be in shape as you are often carrying a lot of gear and don't want to bonk and cause an issue that would jeopardize yourself, your teammates, or the mission.

        Edit: to answer your second question, my wife and I hike recreationally just about every weekend and the team often hikes during trainings and does a weekly casual hike as well.

        • lnwlebjel 14 days ago
          Thanks for this info. This is something I've been thinking about doing in a few years (once the kids are further along). Seems like a very cool thing to do.
          • jonah 14 days ago
            Feel free to email me if I can answer any questions.
    • ramcle 13 days ago
      By the way, does anyone know why the site stopped being updated in 2019? Besides Death Valley Germans there were other interesting articles in there, about other Search & Rescue endeavors, Area 51, an interesting take on Bob Lazar etc. I hope the author is OK and in good health.
    • anitil 14 days ago
      It's been a long time since I read that, and I still think about it from time to time. I suppose it's time for a re-read
    • tired_star_nrg 14 days ago
      why is it asking me to sign in to read this?
      • nmstoker 14 days ago
        It was fine when I read the first five or so installments, then I got a random authentication request, which I couldn't see the cause of, but seems like it may have been triggered when I chucked an image. My guess is that during the time I was viewing the site, the owner decided they would lock it down to people who were authenticated. Shame as I was just getting to the point of progress!
        • jonah 14 days ago
          Curious. Maybe it was hugged to death and he or his ISP locked it down to cut down on bandwidth. Or maybe decided he didn't want a bunch of people reading it right now?
        • bfLives 14 days ago
          It’s accessible via the Wayback Machine, fortunately.
      • nosrepa 14 days ago
        The site was posted here and probably other social media in the last day or so. More than likely it's to prevent the site from getting hugged to death.
      • GlenTheEskimo 14 days ago
    • ghaff 13 days ago
      As someone who has spent a fair bit of time around Death Valley, it really helped to illuminate how someone with no point of reference about the environment could really get themselves in trouble.
      • VagabundoP 11 days ago
        And how devastating heat stroke can be. Just look at poor Michael Mosley recently.
    • netsharc 14 days ago
      Ouch, I'm sort of annoyed that the author was inspired to be long-winded and have 16 or more parts to his story. I'm up to part 2 and there's a fear of disappointment that it'll be a boring waste of time. (In comparison to the Death Valley Germans story, which was captivating!)
      • jonah 14 days ago
        I just finished the ROV series of posts. It was sufficiently captivating. I enjoyed his narrative - I can see that he was inspired by Mahood's writing style as well as his quest.
      • noman-land 14 days ago
        It's really good. Keep reading.
  • ac2u 14 days ago
    While I'm sure they did this to try to combine their talents and interests with altruism, what they got out of the end of that was both of those but also a legacy.

    Most of us only wish we could tell stories like that as a result of the technical work we do.

  • Fauntleroy 14 days ago
    Posts like these really get down to the essence of Hacker News for me. Doing amazing, previously impossible things through sheer nerdy effort. What a deeply impressive story!
  • octernion 14 days ago
    having built autonomous ROVs in college, i'm absolutely astonished at what this person accomplished essentially on their own. they are so finicky and piloting them is a whole skill set on its own.

    and, what perseverance; it really did read like a detective story and what a good job distilling the cases down to their basics.

    what a cool read and an absolute triumph of an accomplishment.

    • sleepybrett 14 days ago
      There is quite a bit of open source info out there on how to build these things these days. I think the quadcopter/'drone' boom kinda opened up the market for rc hobbies in general. I've seen guys with UHF fpv setups on planes fly for miles and miles and maintain signal. With purpose built antennas they can go even further. The legality is .. suspect at best, but shrug.
      • octernion 13 days ago
        yeah, fair enough. we had to build virtually all of the software from scratch, including like, IPC. i wasn't involved as much with hardware but it does seem to be much more out there these days.

        still a massive accomplishment imo!

  • timzaman 14 days ago
    These articles are the reason i check hacker news every day. What an amazing find, thanks for sharing - I love these articles, especially since Tom Mahood's website has been kind of dried up (otherhand).
  • sircastor 14 days ago
    I recall that the guys who started OpenROV did so because they wanted to explore a flooded cave that was rumored to have stolen gold in it.
  • IncreasePosts 14 days ago
    Awesome story! The first case had me thinking "These nerds are wasting their time...why not just a gopro on a long stick". But hearing about the details of the second story, it would have been impossible without the sonar and ROV!
    • rblatz 14 days ago
      Ha, same I even posted basically the same thing higher in the thread.
  • NKosmatos 13 days ago
    Loved the writing style, the technical description, the links to info and also the actual missing person cases.

    This would make for a great TV series ;-)

  • b33j0r 14 days ago
    This is sort of an aside, I hope no one hates it.

    I’ve spread myself so thin over the years that I find it hard to get excited about things.

    If this is your mission, don’t quit. Do it. Second chances are consolation prizes, and a noble cause may only present once.

    • lemonlime0x3C33 13 days ago
      I hope you can take a break, burn out is real and it is important to take care of yourself! It is never too late to work on something you care about :)
  • KennyBlanken 14 days ago
    Frankly, my takeaway here is that police detectives in Finland are poorly trained and not very good at analytical thinking.

    In the first case, if they'd reasoned things out like the author did, they could have simply had someone walk alongside the road that he was likely to be on, they would have seen pretty obvious evidence of damage to the ground / foliage, gone for a closer look, and seen all the broken car bits.

    Add to that the author getting the cold shoulder when he called the police and said "hey, can you send a detective over, I found a car in the water and it matches the vehicle in the missing person case nearby", and they basically told him to fuck off - and then finally showed up when the fire brigade pestered them a second time.

    • trymas 13 days ago
      Hindsight is 20/20, though I was asking similar things since almost the beginning. If the car went off the road - there must have been signs for it. Broken shrubs, trees, car parts, etc.

      Especially for the first case, where OP found Citroen car parts on the side of the road 10 years after the accident.

      My only guess - in the middle of forested Finland - police force is small and most likely overworked.

    • suddenclarity 13 days ago
      We don't know what was said between the author and the police. As stated in the article, it's a cold case where the search had been going on for years and they had several witnesses claiming to have seen the car in a different location.

      Finding a car isn't that uncommon. I know one youtuber doing these kind of things found three cars at the same location when searching for a missing person. In Sweden we have one talked about waterfilled hole with at least 17 cars but no one wants to deal with it due to the costs and environmental issues if you start pulling them.

  • spathi_fwiffo 14 days ago
    I would suggest defining any acronyms in the title of an article in the introduction section of the article.

    Had to get to PART 6 to answer my first question: What is an "ROV"?

    "The solution was to use an ROV, Remote Operated Vehicle "

    • goshx 13 days ago
      I agree. I couldn't find the reference on the first few pages, so I pasted the URL to chatGPT and asked what is an ROV to get the context based on the article
    • drcongo 13 days ago
      Once I got to the end of the first page without finding out, I selected the "ROV" in the title and three-finger-touched my trackpad and it told me the answer. One of the little Mac niceties I'd struggle without.
      • martyvis 13 days ago
        On my Android Pixel you only need to highlight the text and a definition pops up which can then be swiped further up for other search options
    • hi-v-rocknroll 13 days ago
    • codeulike 13 days ago
      Yeah that really should be in the first paragraph or two, at least
    • scrozier 14 days ago
      It is my futile mission in life to help people understand that initials, acronyms, and abbreviations are real barriers to communication.
      • mindslight 14 days ago
        Funny, because I'd say that jargon is a facilitator of communication between knowledgeable people. It can always be looked up by those with the interest but not the knowledge. I end up doing this all the time, and appreciating reading dumps of domain knowledge and perspective. Meanwhile, writing everything for a lowest common denominator audience creates real barriers to communication - both destroying communications bandwidth, and also encouraging experts to retreat to less visible forums.
        • scrozier 14 days ago
          It would take the author a few seconds to type "remotely operated vehicle" (or whatever it stands for), and therefore save hours of time for people who need to look it up. Not to mention...I almost skipped the article because I didn't know what ROV stood for. Lost audience.

          Your argument is that lots of experts on remotely operated vehicles would scoff at the article because it didn't use their "inside" jargon? First off, how many people would that be, compared to the number of people who love a good mystery and a good gadget, but have no idea what an ROV is?

          As to bandwidth, you only have to spell it out once. Simple practice: I built a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) and solved some cold missing person cases.

          The author of this piece doesn't strike me as someone who relishes communicating in cryptic acronyms, so my guess is that it was just thoughtless. He hadn't yet seen my screed on the subject. :-)

          I'm sure there are those who love communicating in cryptic code. They tend to congregate in like-minded cliques that don't much care about communicating outside their tightly-defined world. So be it. But if you want to be read and understood by a wide audience, spell it out.

          • mindslight 14 days ago
            Jargon generally takes on its own meaning and context beyond a naive reading. "ROV" customarily refers to an underwater remotely operated vehicle, not merely any "remotely operated vehicle" (contrast with flying "drones" or contemporary cars with cell modems). I'm nowhere near an expert or even frequent user of the term, that's just from my casual recollection and a quick search seems to back it up.

            The proper comparison isn't the author's time versus the readers looking it up, but rather readers encountering a term for the first time having to look it up versus every other reader having to read overly verbose writing that reiterates basic definitions rather than getting to the novel points. If you're as interested in ROVs as you imply, well now you know for all of the other times you will read the term. If you're really expecting to never encounter the term again, I wonder why you're reading a technical engineering-adjacent forum.

            And yes, effective communication within "like-minded cliques" is exactly what is facilitated by jargon. Personally I'd rather read concise technical descriptions from such direct communications (doing the work to learn what I don't know from context or external sources), rather than having to skim through watered-down general-audience "edutainment" articles and read between the lines to figure out the specific touchstones being referenced by canned general phrases.

            • Attrecomet 13 days ago
              >The proper comparison isn't the author's time versus the readers looking it up, but rather readers encountering a term for the first time having to look it up versus every other reader having to read overly verbose writing that reiterates basic definitions rather than getting to the novel points. If you're as interested in ROVs as you imply, well now you know for all of the other times you will read the term. If you're really expecting to never encounter the term again, I wonder why you're reading a technical engineering-adjacent forum.

              This isn't a water hobbyists forum, nor one for all manner of remotely operated vehicles, so it's a bit optimistic to assume many people here will know "ROV" as a remote controlled submarine. Fact is, most of us cannot, from the title, figure out if we're interested, nor from skimming the first six (!) pages of a long article. Explaining ROV once at the beginning would, I dare say, not have impacted the enjoyment of underwater professionals very much, but saved me and most others on this forum some time figuring out if I want to figure it out.

              • mindslight 13 days ago
                I don't get this pigeonholing of the concern as being only about "water hobbyists" or "underwater professionals". It's literally just a type of machine you will become aware of some time during the course of reading about engineering or subsea operations. As I said, I'm not even fully sure it just applies to underwater vehicles yet I have bumped into the term/concept more than several times already in my life. If you're new and this is your first time encountering it, appreciate the learning opportunity. I bet you'll see the term a lot more now due to Baader-Meinhof.
              • krisoft 12 days ago
                > This isn't a water hobbyists forum

                And the article was not written to this forum?

                > Fact is, most of us cannot, from the title, figure out if we're interested

                This is a situation where HN’s “no editorialising titles” rule falls flat. Simply with the context change the title would be also best changed. I also understand why we have the rule of course.

                > Explaining ROV once at the beginning would, I dare say, not have impacted the enjoyment of underwater professionals very much

                Sure. There is a lot which could have been improved on the whole article with better editing.

        • mcculley 13 days ago
          HTML has a handy tag for abbreviations and a way to link to definitions. It is a shame that so few bother to use it.
      • m463 14 days ago
        • KennyBlanken 14 days ago
          Musk is always good for the 'hot take' that on the surface seems smart...but turns out it isn't, because he thinks that talking with an engineer in a specific area makes him qualified to talk like them. And then it turns out that he does the very thing he complains about.

          For the latter, check this long list of acronyms used in Telsa vehicles (yes, A/C is obvious....keep scrolling down): https://service.tesla.com/docs/Model3/ServiceManual/2024/en-...

          What the fluff is a "Brick Monitor Board"? I'm a car nut and I know a lot about EVs, and my best guess: it's a submodule of the battery management system that monitors a group of cells, which I think the only reason I know to guess that is because I've watched youtube videos of tesla packs being repaired or torn down. IBST? Turns out that's the vacuum pump for the brake servo, and "I" means "electronic."

          For the former, he was probably ranting about this because he's always struck me as a little insecure about being better than NASA (not really that hard) and thus is annoyed by NASA's fetish for backronyms...which I think it inherited from the military due to sleeping in the same bed for three quarters of a century, but also their convenience.

          During all phases of a mission, there are often times where comms need to be fast (for example, when the flight director or whoever does it, asks each subsystem person if they're go for launch - there's a lot of those subsystem people and the "are you OK with us proceeding" happens multiple times just during the lead-up to launch. It's a lot faster to have the following conversation:

          "ECS?" "Go." "TACNAZ?" "Go." "DONUT?" "Go."

          If you're the astronaut, you don't want to be shouting "Electronic Cookie Stabilizer failure!" over the radio during an emergency, and anyone on the channel with you probably knows every acronym relating to the mission by heart..

        • resolutebat 14 days ago
          YM "TDM TLA". HTH, HAND!
      • klondike_klive 14 days ago
        Sorry buddy, you might be SOL
  • MuffinFlavored 13 days ago
    > “ROV” stands for remotely operated vehicle
  • mzs 14 days ago
    recent HN discussion on an earlier SAR that was the spark for this glorious mad Finn:


  • bestest 13 days ago
    i don't usually read long articles, especially paginated ones. but this one got my attention and I don't regret it. such a nice mix of tech and suspense mystery thriller. thanks!
    • sandos 13 days ago
      Agreed, I was thinking "what if the could have made those guesses right away?" Would have been trivial to see the tracks leading down into the water compared to building a ROV!
  • jojobas 13 days ago
    Fascinating but sad reading. Don't drink and drive.
  • westurner 14 days ago
    /? underwater infrared camera: https://www.google.com/search?q=underwater+infrared+camera

    r/rov: https://www.reddit.com/r/rov/

    Bioradiolocation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioradiolocation

    FMCW: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous-wave_radar

    mmWave (60 Ghz) can do heartbeat detection above water FWIU. As can WiFi.

    mmwave (millimeter wave), UWA (Underwater Acoustic)

    Citations of "Analysis and estimation of the underwater acoustic millimeter-wave communication channel" (2016) https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=8297460493079369585...

    Citations of "Wi-Fi signal analysis for heartbeat and metal detection: a comparative study of reliable contactless systems" https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=3926358377223165726...

    /? does WiFi work underwater? https://www.google.com/search?q=does+wifi+work+underwater

    https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=1308760257416493671... ... "Environment-independent textile fiber identification using Wi-Fi channel state information", "Measurement of construction materials properties using Wi-Fi and convolutional neural networks"

    "Underwater target detection by measuring water-surface vibration with millimeter-wave radar" https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=1710768155624387794... :

    > UWSN (Underwater Sensor Network)

    I'm reminded of Baywatch S09E01; but those aren't actual trained lifeguards. The film Armageddon works as a training film because of all of the [safety,] mistakes: https://www.google.com/search?q=baywatch+s09e01

  • y-curious 14 days ago
    An incredible read! Thank you so much. It even has the famous Finnish humility downplaying his huge achievements
  • tw04 13 days ago
    The author clearly reads HN or used to. I’m curious if he plans on pursuing this further. Sounds like the last investigation wrapped in 2021 and he may have even gotten a cash injection to upgrade some of his kit. The last update kind of leaves you hanging!
    • gowld 12 days ago
      It's literally the first sentence in the article.

      "I didn’t know it back then but it all started while I was reading Hacker News in February 2019"

    • r00fus 13 days ago
      If the author wants to crowdsource the funding of the next operation (if needed) this story would be an amazing push. I sure would donate to solving more cases!
    • trinsic2 13 days ago
      I'm pretty sure he said that in the article.
  • mparnisari 14 days ago
    Amazing read! These ROVs should be massed produced and distributed to the police everywhere..
  • dcow 12 days ago
    Reading this kinda makes one question the incentives and competency of government investigation programs. All they did was ask “given the reliable info, where could the car be”? And they display better deductive reasoning than professional investigators, and achieve results with a budget of pennies. I know you can’t win them all but still I’m a little disillusioned and question whether investigation agencies should be publicly funded and operated when I read these type of stories.
  • glonq 12 days ago
    This is like a little humble and decent version of those "Adventures with Purpose" guys on YT. Nice work!
  • danw1979 14 days ago
    This series of articles is genuinely thrilling to read. What a fantastic and truly worthwhile bit of detective work. Very well written up.
  • frozenbit 9 days ago
    Wow, what a great story! Really inspiring too, well done and well written.
  • mparnisari 13 days ago
    Does anyone have the Google maps location where these two cars were found? Trying to see if they are visible there
  • vavooom 6 days ago
    This is quite honestly one of the most phenomenal reads I have had on HackerNews. From the technical detail to the personal investigation, this truly shows how much one person can accomplish with discipline and a goal. Kudos to you sir!
  • he0001 13 days ago
    This was absolutely captivating! Better than any book I’ve read lately!
  • dataminded 12 days ago
    Amazing. Exactly the type of content that I come to HN for.
  • noisy_boy 12 days ago
    Just make a netflix documentary already. Amazing material.
  • sitkack 14 days ago
    Excellent writing. The next ROV should have a magnetometer.
  • aredox 14 days ago
    The technical details are in part 4 and 6.
  • more_corn 13 days ago
    This is so cool. I hope he kept at it.
  • edm0nd 14 days ago
    OP should have not felt bad about contacting family members and done it to yield more information to help them in their cases.
  • poulpy123 13 days ago
    And now I have a new obsession: building an boat or underwater ROV with a camera and a sonar
  • shokhie 12 days ago
    Awesome Read.
  • laretluval 12 days ago
    I built an RV to increase missing person cases
  • DaveTheSane 13 days ago