Dory is aimed at bringing underwater drones to a wider audience
When consumer aerial camera-drones first hit the market, buyers were mostly limited to models costing $1,000 or more. These days, half-decent quadcopters can be had for under a hundred bucks. While not going quite that cheap, Chasing Innovation is now aiming to make underwater drones similarly more affordable, with the Dory.
First of all, here are the basic specs …
Measuring just 9.7 by 7.4 by 3.6 inches (247 by 188 by 92 mm), the Dory tips the scales at a claimed 2.9 lb (1.3 kg), and can descend to a maximum depth of 49 ft (15 m). By contrast, Chasing's higher-end Gladius drone can get down to 328 ft (100 m). Video is captured via a 1080p/30fps camera, assisted in dim conditions by dual 250-lumen LED spotlights.
Users control the Dory (and view its camera output in real time) via an iOS/Android app. That app in turn wirelessly communicates over a distance of 49 ft with a Wi-Fi buoy, which is towed along on the surface above the drone – the Dory is tethered to that buoy by an electrical cable.
Unlike the case with some other underwater drones, which simply have a shore-based reel of cable that reaches directly to the watercraft, the Dory's wireless buoy setup allows it to travel horizontally without being limited by cable length. On the other hand, though, the 49-ft drone-to-buoy diving cable has to be plopped into the water all at once, potentially proceeding to drift in the current or get snagged on obstacles.
Additionally, if the drone craps out or loses Wi-Fi contact, there's no way of retrieving it (unless you've got a boat, or feel like swimming). In fact, a Chasing rep suggested to us that a reel of fishing line be tied to the buoy, so that it can be towed back in if necessary. They also added that in the future, a more traditional cable-reel setup may be available for users who prefer it.
Some of the Dory's other features include a total of five thrusters (three vertical, two horizontal), an automatic depth-holding function, and the ability to proceed forward with the nose/camera locked to a maximum tilt angle of plus or minus 45 degrees. It has a maximum forward speed of 1.5 knots (2.5 ft/0.8 m per second), with one 2-hour simultaneous charge of it and the buoy's batteries reportedly being good for one hour of run time.
If you're interested, the Dory is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$349 will get you one, with shipping expected to take place next month if everything works out. The planned retail price is $499.
It can be seen in action, in the video below.