In the world of professional-grade underwater robotic vehicles, there are basically two kinds: Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) which are good for tasks like performing inspections, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) which are better-suited to things like grid searches. Aquabotix has recently combined the two in one device, with the release of the Integra AUV/ROV.
When used as an ROV, the Integra is hooked up to a fiber optic cable that runs from it to a Wi-Fi-equipped control box on the shore. The operator then controls the vehicle in real time, using an app on their mobile device (or computer) which communicates with that box. Because the app is browser-based, they don't need to be standing right beside the box – they can actually be located anywhere in the world that has internet service.
To use the Integra as an AUV, the cable is unplugged, and a mission is preprogrammed into the vehicle using a Windows-based program. Once placed in the water, it then carries out that mission, autonomously making its way to the preset waypoints and performing assigned tasks.
Some of the Integra's other features include five high-torque motors, a 1080p/30fps camera with pan and tilt control, 4,400 lumens of LED lighting, and a sensor package that includes depth, temperature, orientation and GPS. It has a 5-lb (2.3-kg) payload capacity, that allows it to be equipped with additional sensors, including sonar.
There are actually two models of Integra, that can descend to maximum depths of either 100 or 300 meters (328 or 984 ft). Their battery life is four and eight hours, respectively.
Unlike some prosumer "underwater drones" that we've seen recently, the Integra isn't intended just for taking a fun peek beneath the water's surface – its suggested applications include law enforcement, research, environmental assessment, defence and infrastructure.
It can be seen in action, in the video below.
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