Underwater drones have long been the preserve of ocean exploration firms, but a lower-cost, smartphone-controlled device is coming soon.
The battery-powered Blueye Pioneer drone can descend to depths inaccessible to divers with normal scuba gear.
A group of ocean enthusiasts from Norway’s most prestigious technical university, NTNU, are aiming to transform how people experience life under the sea. They’ve created a new startup to bring their underwater camera drone, Blueye Pioneer, to market.
The drone is battery powered and uses a thin cable to bring live 1,080-pixel, 30fps video to the surface. It can dive to 150 meters (492ft), a depth inaccessible to divers with normal scuba gear. The drone weighs less than 8kg (17.6lb), with its batteries providing enough power for two hours of normal operations.
You control the drone from an app on your smartphone or tablet. The app also records the video, or streams it to social media or other online services. Blueye will also come with a ‘digital dive mask’. The mask will fit most smartphones and provide an immersive experience.
Underwater remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, are nothing new. They’ve been used by the offshore oil industry in Norway and elsewhere for decades. However, until now they have had a price tag that precludes most people from using them.
Blueye Pioneer is being priced to put it within reach of consumers as well as the professional market. The startup points out that fish farming, search and rescue, research, and underwater work are all possible professional use cases for its drone, on top of personal use by divers, yachtsmen, and others who are simply curious about life beneath the waves.
Blueye Pioneer is planned to ship in the final quarter this year, and will retail for 37,500 krone (€4,100/$4,500). It is possible to pre-order the drone now, for 30,000 krone (€3,300/$3,600).