A new commercial drone, dubbed “Sea-Air Integrated Drone”, can both fly in the air and perform operations underwater. The breakthrough innovation was recently showcased at a marine amusement park in Japan.
The world’s first sea-to-air drone is a collaborative effort between three Asian firms: Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI, commercial drone manufacturer PRODRONE, and underwater robotics company QYSEA. It aims to make detailed underwater inspection and surveillance work possible without the need for any ships or personnel.
Essentially, the Sea-Air Integrated Drone is a combination of a heavy-duty aerial drone and QYSEA’s industrial-class FIFISH PRO V6 PLUS ROV. It has been in the making for six years.
The drone leverages long-range mobile communications to fly to its preset route at sea. After landing at its designated location, the underwater drone is released and deployed to work. The pilot is then able to remotely operate the ROV from a safe working location and perform a variety of inspection, maintenance, and repair work underwater.
This workflow is a significant improvement over traditional underwater inspection methods where workers use boats to drive out to offshore platforms and make multiple dives for their mission.
The Sea-Air Integrated Drone negates the need to leave the onshore working location, offering both real-time visual feedback and operating through underwater environments with a variety of sampling, measurement, and manipulation tools.
The developers of the drone are positive that their innovation will have a far-reaching impact across various marine-based industries. In offshore wind power, for example, the drone will be able to perform complex inspections and maintenance work. In the world of aquaculture, the drone would be able to fly out to monitor livestock and crops, as well as perform maintenance and repair work through add-on tools. Other applications could include search and recovery operations, hull inspections, etc.
Watch the sea-air drone in action here:
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