It wasn’t all that long ago that the product category of “consumer aerial drone” was created, thanks to the introduction of smart-but-relatively-cheap quadcopters such as the AR Drone. These remote-control aircraft can be a lot of fun, but ... what about those of us who prefer the water to the skies? That’s where the Ziphius comes in. It’s a smartphone or tablet-controlled camera-equipped aquatic drone, that’s capable of autonomous behavior.
Designed in Portugal’s Azores islands, the Ziphius has a lithium iron phosphate battery that powers two brushless DC motors, which in turn each spin one of two pod-like propellers. These propellers can run in forward and reverse, independent of one another, allowing the Ziphius to turn on the spot. Its maximum forward speed is 6 mph (9.7 km/h).
Utilizing an included iOS or Android app, users can remotely control the drone via Wi-Fi from a distance of up to 300 feet (90 m). Not only does the app allow them to control the speed and direction of the Ziphius, but it also provides them with a 720p live feed from an onboard HD video camera. A servo motor lets users tilt the camera up to see what’s above the surface, or tilt it down to see what’s lurking below. If things are a little dark under the surface, they can also flip on the camera’s LED light.
Footage is additionally recorded at 1080p to an onboard 8 GB MicroSD card, plus it can be uploaded to YouTube directly from the app.
Battery life sits at a reported one hour of run time per charge. A display on the app’s control screen indicates the current battery status, so users can bring the Ziphius in before they end up having to swim out to retrieve it.
The drone’s body consists of one main impact-resistant plastic base unit, and interchangeable foam backs that can be swapped on and off. These backs are configured for performing different tasks, such as transporting drinks in pools, or serving as a GoPro camera mount. Should the drone be flipped over in rough seas, its self-righting design ensures that it will roll back up.
Thanks to its integrated Raspberry Pi and ATMEGA microcontrollers, the watercraft can already do things like tracking and chasing down a colored ball thrown into the water in its vicinity. Other artificial intelligence-based capabilities are in the works, along with augmented reality games utilizing its video feed.
Azorean Aquatic Technologies, the maker of the Ziphius, is currently raising production funds on Kickstarter. The US$195 early bird specials are already gone, but you can still get a drone of your own for a pledge of $245. Assuming that the funding goal is met and production commences, the first deliveries are scheduled for next March.
The Ziphius can be seen in action in the pitch video below.