BW Space underwater drone goes autonomous to track divers
It was just last year that Youcan Robot successfully crowdfunded its remote-control BlueWater 1 (BW1) underwater drone. Now, the Chinese startup is back on Kickstarter, with its diver-following BW Space.
Like the BW1, the 4.2-kg (9.3-lb) BW Space can descend to a maximum depth of 100 m (328 ft). Whereas the BW1 is attached to a communications cable that runs up to a floating Wi-Fi buoy, however, the BW Space's tether simply runs all the way back to a shore- or boat-located Wi-Fi module.
The operator can be located anywhere within 500 m (1,640 ft) of that module, controlling the drone and viewing real-time video from its camera via an iOS/Android app on their smartphone or tablet. For added functionality, their mobile device can be mounted in an optional video-game-style remote control unit, allowing them to choose between the app and the more intuitive remote for piloting the drone.
4K/30fps video and 12MP stills are recorded on the drone's 128 gigabytes of internal memory, with video also being streamed up to the user at a resolution of 1080p/30fps. Dual LED spotlights help illuminate subjects at depth, with built-in light sensors automatically adjusting their output from 0 to a combined 1,380 lumens.
Thrust is provided by three propellers (two horizontal and one vertical), taking the BW Space to a maximum forward speed of 2 meters (6.6 ft) per second. One charge of the 13,600-mAh battery pack should reportedly be good for three to seven hours of use.
And yes, the thing can reportedly follow along with divers, snorkelers or swimmers within a range of 0.5 to 7 meters (1.6 to 23 ft). When set to Intelligent Tracking Mode, the drone's image recognition system will identify people within its camera shot, highlighting them with a yellow frame on the app display. Once initiated by the user, the drone will then lock onto one of those targets, autonomously piloting itself in order to keep them in its shot as they move around.
The iBubble underwater drone is claimed to be capable of the same thing.
Should you be interested in getting a BW Space, pledges start at US$659 – that's for a basic setup that comes with a 50-m (164-ft) tether, and that does not include a remote unit. At the other end of the scale, $1,059 is required for a kit with a 150-m (492-ft) tether and an included remote. The planned retail prices for those packages are $1,649 and $1,949, respectively. If everything works out, shipping is estimated to take place in October.
You can see the drone in action, in the following video.