By now, drones have become a familiar term and have morphed from military-grade status to something that any everyday consumer can purchase and use. Popular with recreational and commercial users who want to film aerial tours, or just get a bird’s eye perspective of a striking area.
Drones are becoming easier to use, cheaper and much more prevalent in the zeitgeist of the 2010s. So what’s the next step for drones? Hopefully the underwater realm.
A new type of drone is already in the works to explore under the surface, instead of above the surface. Known casually as the iBubble, this unique new invention already has a prototype which is a moderately sized device that looks a little like a miniature yellow submarine.
It’s entirely autonomous and detaches from you, so it is unique from other underwater drones that are currently under development. And it’s already making waves in national science conferences and publications as a sign of things to come.
This new wave of drones will be very similar to the aerial versions. A distortion-free optical dome gathers images and videos that are supported by an image stabilization system, as well as two 1,000-lumen lights to brighten up darker regions of the underwater terrain.
The drone follows you by shadowing a signal emitted from a bracelet you wear. The bracelet allows you to switch the drone between different modes, such as shadowing, or completing a 360-degree panorama.
Just like an aerial drone, you will be able to instruct and guide the underwater version to move alongside them by using a remote control that’s attached to your wrist. You can also direct the drone to move in vertical or horizontal loops, to take cool shots of their crew and the world around them.
The distance of these drones is also impressive. The maximum range a drone can move away from the remote is roughly 80’ ft., and the drone can descend to depths of up to 60’ ft. without risking damage.
The new drone works with most cameras, including the GoPro, and can be set up to shoot both 2D and 3D. A fully charged battery would last one hour and is user replaceable.
Of course, one concern for the diving community is the potential for collisions. There have been several news stories of drones veering off course and hitting homes, cars and even pedestrians. With underwater drones the potential to hit and damage a coral reef, which you should never tamper with, could be a major potential concern.
Luckily, the finalized versions of the new underwater drones will have a system for obstacle avoidance. Through an object recognition system, the drone will veer away from coral walls and other delicate objects. Also, you can set it to “target” a moving object like a sea turtle or shark and follow it at a safe distance for continuous video footage.
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