"Underwater drone" channels your inner Cousteau

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The BlueROV2 can descend to a depth of 100 m (328 ft)(Credit: Blue Robotics)

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If you're fascinated by the underwater world, then you probably also think that ROVs (remote-operated vehicles) are pretty neat. Given that their prices can start in the tens of thousands of dollars, though, you've likely never seriously considered buying one. Well, that could be about to change. Utilizing some of the same technologies that have allowed aerial drones to become affordable, Blue Robotics' BlueROV2 could soon be yours for around US$3,000.

The BlueROV2 is able to descend to a maximum depth of 100 m (328 ft), maneuvering using six vectored thrusters. An umbilical tether runs from it to a topside laptop or tablet, where the user controls it in real time using the QGroundControl app. The submersible also incorporates an open-source Pixhawk autopilot, along with a Raspberry Pi microcomputer.

Depending on the package chosen, video is captured by either an SD or HD (1080p/30 fps) onboard camera, and is fed to the user's screen at a latency of 200 milliseconds. Built-in LED spotlights help illuminate the murky depths.

Company founder Rustom Jehangir tells us that one charge of the ROV's battery pack is currently good for about one hour of heavy use, or up to four hours of lighter duty. That said, he's hoping to double the battery's capacity, and is also looking into supplying power from the surface via the tether.

The whole rig weighs about 22 lb (10 kg) in the air, although it's slightly positively buoyant in the water. A 100-m tether adds around 10 lb (4.5 kg) more.

If you're interested, the BlueROV2 is now available for preorder, with shipments expected to begin in August. The $3,000 figure is for a basic model that will require some assembly. It can be seen in action, in the video below.

... and if you don't mind waiting a little longer, you might also want to check out the even less expensive – but simpler – Trident ROV.

Source: Blue Robotics

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