There are almost countless options for aspiring and expert drone pilots to get maximum enjoyment and video footage from of their excursions in the skies. The choice is far more limited for people who prefer getting away from it all beneath the waves. Automated marine drone iBubble is one of those – assuring optimal film documentation for all kinds of undersea divers.
Undersea drone for pro, eco, and pleasure users
The iBubble is made by French startup Notilo Plus, and promises to trail divers as they inspect marine life, come snorkel-to-nose with fish, or pursue work restoring damaged coral. Just this week, Australian eco-tourism operator Passions of Paradise announced it’s using iBubble drones to capture essential data about the evolving state of a Great Barrier Reef section its divers are working to restore.
“Video and photos of the areas surveyed are part of the reporting requirements and allow us a complete recording of our activities, which we can edit into exciting social media content,” says Russell Hosp, Passions of Paradise’s environmental manager, whose divers replant regrown coral fragments in areas of damaged reefs, while eco-guides provide clients underwater diving tours. “We log data on the corals and marine life we see during surveys so that changes in reef conditions are reported immediately.”
The iBubble is also marketed for consumer use – though at $2,999 per unit, prospective clients would need to be ardent snorkel or scuba fans to get their full money’s worth. It works with most commercial cameras, including GoPro, which are purchased separately.
Once in the water, the iBubble trails its diver automatically, using a radio feed from a smart bracelet. The wrist strap also contains controls for drone commands to follow, 360, zoom in and out, and change its seven filming modes. Its internal sonar device picks up surrounding obstacles to prevent collisions, and can descend to a maximum depth of 196 feet.
Its battery life is 90 minutes, after which the iBubble automatically floats to the surface (an LED light facilitates location if it drifts off). Batteries are designed to be easily replaced for extended outings. A tethered option allows the drone to be piloted from the surface while feeding video back to the controller.
Hosp says the iBubble has become an essential tool in its work with environmental and university research partners.
“In the past five months we have done 60 [reef] surveys, almost 200 hours of research, and planted more than 700 pieces of coral,” he says. “In the future we hope to use [it] to analyze coral growth and local reef structure, and to record the impact of events such as Crown of Thorns outbreaks or cyclones.”
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