Whether for shipwrecks, traces of ancient civilizations or studies of the ocean floor, underwater exploration is an expensive proposition that is out of the financial reach of most companies and individuals.
But for harbors, shipping companies, oceanic exploratory expeditions and others, there is now affordable drone-based technology that can unlock the secrets of the sea with stunning imagery and with the ability to add sensor-based input in future enhancements.
“Our goal is to democratize ocean exploration with technology that previously would cost thousands of dollars and was out of reach for most smaller companies and individual users,” says Erik Dyrkoren, CEO of Blueye Robotics, a Norway-based company that provides drones for underwater exploration.
The Blueye underwater drone dives eight times deeper than a typical scuba diver and enables smaller companies and also individuals to see what only the scientific community has only been able to afford to see before.
“We wanted to manufacture a drone that was at an affordable price point (around $3,500) and that also had a level of performance that professionals could use,” Dyrkoren says. “The drone can function at up to 150 meters of depth. It has a sophisticated control system, but it is also very easy to use.”
The drone also has advanced technology that improves the fidelity of the imagery that it captures underwater.
“We use special filters that remove some color from certain shadings and that add color to other colors so we can get a more accurate representation of the imagery that the drone is capturing on the ocean floor,” Dyrkonen says.
By manufacturing an affordable and highly functional underwater drone, Dyrkoren foresees an untapped market that can range from underwater exploration enthusiasts and hobbyists and cruise ship companies that want to add underwater exploration as an experience for their customers, to harbors that need to inspect the strength of underwater pillars; shippers that need to inspect the hulls, the rudders, propellers and the undersides of ships, and aquariums and smaller companies that are doing research and performing other types of underwater exploration.
“If you are a small company and you need to perform underwater exploration or inspection, it is both time-consuming and expensive to hire scuba divers,” Dyrkonen says. “Also, scuba divers can only go under as far as 20 to 30 meters. You can also avoid the experience of having to rent an expensive underwater vehicle by using the drone.”
Dyrkonen says there were already plans to build new functionality into the initial underwater drone platform.
“We want to add sensors that will expand data collection capabilities,” he says. “Also, we are looking at the possibility of gathering all of this collected data into a single data repository that underwater researchers and others could have access to … We also have certain social responsibility goals that we want to achieve,” Dyrkonen says. “We want to help humans manage the health of the oceans since the oceans are subject to climate change. Tools like this, which can automatically probe the ocean depths and come back with meaningful information, further that objective.”