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News & Notes

New Underwater Drone for the Masses

Go under the sea with the Blueye Pioneer drone

June 28, 2017

A Norwegian startup announced a new underwater drone today that can explore depths beyond the reach of most scuba divers. Priced at $3,500, the company hopes to make underwater exploration accessible to a wider audience.

Blueye Robotics  claims the Blueye Pioneer drone can take images down to almost 500 feet below the ocean surface. “If this was an aerial drone, I would say it would be analogous to the DJI Phantom 4,” says Christine Spiten, Blueye Robotics co-founder. “We want to make it possible for people to go to depths and places that have never been seen before.

The Pioneer drone is tethered to a control unit, which is be operated from the surface. The drone has dived depths of almost 500 feet, which is much deeper than the roughly 131 feet limit for safe recreational diving. The company tested the Pioneer in deep and cold waters around Norway, and even released video captured by the drone of the chimaera, or ghost shark, a dead-eyed, wing-finned fish rarely seen by people.

The Blueye drone's custom-designed camera shows marine wildlife as it really looks. Better go see if you can spot Flounder!
Blueye Robotics
In order to take vivid pictures at these depths, the camera was specially designed to adjust for the limited light available underwater. At depth, light is not just dimmer, but certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by the water. Red is the first wavelength to be filtered out, so the Blueye camera is designed to automatically adjust the light levels below 16 feet underwater to compensate for this effect.

“Normal cameras will fade to green or bluish the deeper you go, but ours will show you the natural colors of the marine wildlife,” says Spiten.

She hopes the Pioneer will appeal to high-end consumers or professional divers who could not previously afford such equipment. Spiten imagines the drone will be useful for hull inspections and scientists who may use it for environmental monitoring, fish farming, or aquaculture.

Early customers include The Norwegian Society for Search and Rescue and the World Wildlife Fund, WWF Norway. She promise a bigger, even more capable version will be coming out in the future specifically designed for ocean research.

“Only 10% of the ocean has been explored right now,” she says. “We really want to democratize the technology so anyone can be an explorer.”
Featured image: Blueye Robotics