underwater drones

3 underwater drones that are taking the drone industry to new depths

Thought drones were just for flying? These drones “fly,” but only underwater.

Ready-to-use out of the box, underwater drones are the latest trend to come out of the robotics community.  Instead of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), these drones are typically referred to as ROVs, which stands for remotely operated underwater vehicles.

These underwater drones are typically tethered (to keep them from swimming too far away from you as well as to transmit data) to your boat or somewhere (or someone on land). The drones have cameras, making them excellent tools for underwater photographers, people who need to inspect structures underwater, scientific researchers, and even tour boat companies that want to show guests the world beneath the boat.

Most of these drones operate like the consumer-level drones you’ll see on the market today, where it is controlled with an RC controller. Much like how the left stick controls altitude on an aerial drone, the left stick controls the depth of the drone in the water. The right stick controls the direction that the drone swims. A mobile app allows you to livestream what the drone sees directly through your smartphone or tablet.

Here are three underwater drones you need to know about, sorted by price — all of which cost $3,000 or less including camera:powerray powervision

  1. PowerRay by PowerVision:  The PowerRay drone, which starts at $1,488, can go as deep as about 100 feet underwater. The sonar system can detect objects up to an additional 130 meters below the robot, allowing users to detect objects up to about 230 feet below the surface. A cord attached to the drone prevents the drone from swimming off if the pilot loses control, and it can last about 4 hours on one charge. The PowerRay drone is the sister product of PowerVision’s aerial drone — the PowerEgg — which is (you guessed it) a flying drone in the shape of an egg.

    The Trident underwater drones

    The Trident. Image courtesy of OpenROV

  2. Trident by OpenROV: Berkeley, Calif.-based startup started out in the underwater drone community making DIY underwater drone kits that were widely used by scientists and researchers. OpenROV’s story starts with treasure. As the legend goes, a group of Native Americans stole 100 nuggets of gold from miners during the California Gold Rush in the 1800s. They buried the nuggets in a well, but since then, no one has retrieved the gold. Lang and co-founder Eric Stackpole met and decided to build an underwater robot to find the buried treasure. The company this year started taking pre-orders for its upcoming ready-to-use underwater drone. Called the Trident, it can dive as deep as deep as 328 feet below the surface for as long as 3 hours, and stream 1080p video. The Trident starts at $1,399 if pre-ordered, after which the price rises to $1,699.

    The Blueye Pioneer underwater drone. Courtesy of Blueye

  3. Pioneerby Blueye: Norway-based startup Blueye in June launched a drone called ‘The Pioneer’, which can go up to 150 meters down (that’s 8x the depth an average scuba diver can go). This drone can travel to the lowest depths of the three drones, going as far as nearly 500 feet deep for as long as 2 hours. It also has a 1080p camera and powerful LED lights that can show even murky water or low depths. The Pioneer will ship in 2018 for $3550 or is available for pre-order for $3,000.


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