In marine engineering, the strength of a submarine sediment is an indispensable parameter for assessment of construction. In this study, a free-fall cone penetrator named IPen was developed to realize a rapid and efficient measurement of sediment strength. The equipment is characterized by modular design and self-contained data acquisition. It is equipped with an acceleration sensor, a water pressure sensor, and a piezocone penetration test (CPTu) probe. It is designed to be released from near seabed surface with a releaser and then fall freely to provide a higher penetration velocity. Its maximum working depth is approximately 2500 m and maximum penetration depth is approximately 3 m. To derive the correlation between penetration resistance and sediment strength, a calibrator was devised to determine the penetration-rate factor. In addition, the factor applicable to in situ test points was determined in laboratory experiments. In June 2016, the IPen was tested in situ in the South Yellow Sea, China, during a shared voyage funded by the National Science Foundation. Meanwhile, undisturbed column samples were collected for laboratory tests. Based on the in situ test results, it was demonstrated that the IPen could accurately record the working states of various sensors during the freely falling course. IPen test results reliably reflected the sediment strength at all the testing points when compared with laboratory calibration tests, in situ vane tests and penetration tests, laboratory penetration tests, and unconsolidated and undrained triaxial compression tests.