SubAqua – the next frontier for Drones

I know its been a while since I posted to the blog and I have to admit I’m struggling to find the time to maintain it. When I started this (over 5 years ago) I was newly single and in a new role in RTE so finding time to research and share was no problem. Now with two wonderful kids and a wife to consider, my evening are precious and with that comes the struggle to balance priorities and interests.

That said I’ve wanted to post this for quite some time…I’ve been a huge fan of UAV’s/RPAS/Drones since the launch of the DJI Phantom 1. The market for unmanned aerial vehicles has exploded over the five years since and the quality, features and range of models has grown exponentially. I’m still flying my Phantom 2 and have been tempted on many occasions to upgrade to either the Phantom 4 or the 3DRobotics Solo but for now I’m cash strapped so will have to make do and mend.

However there is one new area of Drones that is now starting to gain momentum: SubAqua.

I’ve been patiently waiting for a cost effective, HD/4K underwater camera system and in the last few months a few interesting ones have *surfaced*.

1. Aquabotix 
This company, based in the US, have 2 main Subaqua Drones. The Endura and the HydroView. Interestingly no prices are listed on their website (I have requested a quote) but the videos from the Endura look pretty good. Arguably they could do with a 3 axis gimbal with “soft follow” to stabilise but the most impressive thing is the depth. The Endure 300 can dive to 300m although it comes with a 100m tether out of the box so presumably you have to buy extensions to reach that depth. Will update with price if I receive a reply.

***UPDATE: The Endura 300 starts at $25,000 and the Endura 100 $17,000. You would want to be a pro user for that pricepoint.

More infro from their website: http://www.aquabotix.com/

2 . TTRobotix
The TTR Seawolf is a cheaper solution and aimed more towards the enthusiast. Again it is a tethered solution but in this case the depth is limited to 25m-60 meters depending on model. Interestingly one of the versions of the Seawolf has a VR/360 cameramount which in their promotional material shows a LUNA 360 camera attached. The Luna 360, recently funded via IndieGogo is waterproof and submersible.

More info: http://www.ttrobotix.com/ 


3. iBubble

The iBubble, recently successfully crowdfunded via Indiegogo, follows in the footsteps of the aerial equivalents of autonomous drones like the hexoplus, airdog and Lily. The iBubble will autonomously follow a tracker bracelet underwater, which has 8 pre-programmed camera moves but can be switched into manual operation mode or used as an underwater handheld camera. It’s target RRP when finally released* is expected to be around $2000.

More info: http://ibubble.camera/


4. OpenROV
If you are technically minded you could go the open source / DIY route and explore the OpenROV project. Kits are available to buy/build from $899 – $1399.

More info: http://www.openrov.com/


5. BlueRobotics 
An alternative DIY solution is the BlueROV which also relies on open source software via https://ardusub.com/ The BlueROV kit costs $1290

More info: https://www.bluerobotics.com/


6. Fathom

Details are sketchy about the Fathom underwater Drone. Its due for release in “Summer 2016” The team behind the Fathom have said their target price is +/- $500

Limited info: http://fathomdrone.com/

If you know of any other subaqua drone projects please let me know in the comments section. Equally if you own one and have some interesting video to share please post that also.

About vjmentor
Innovation Lead, RTÉ | VJ & MoJo (Mobile Journalism) Trainer -Circom Regional | Photographer | HDSLR shooter| Views are strictly personal, not those of my employer.

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