Drones and underwater robots (ROVs) are increasingly being used to inspect wind farms at sea, for example. Drones are perfect for checking the mast and blades for irregularities, while the foundation can be inspected with ROVs. The Japanese robot drone developer ProDrone has now developed a drone that can perform both aerial and underwater inspections.
Sea-Air Integrated Robot Drone
The Sea-Air Integrated Drone, as the aircraft is called, actually consists of two remotely controlled (air)craft. Flying through the air, the ROV is part of the drone’s payload, allowing the camera to capture aerial footage just like a regular drone. Once landed on the surface of the water, the ROV detaches from the drone and underwater shots can be taken.
The robot drone was developed by ProDrone in collaboration with Japanese telecom operator KDDI and underwater robot developer QYSEA Technology. It took no less than six years to develop the drone. The result is the first commercially available drone that can be used both in the air and underwater.
For signal transmission, the ROV – a modified version of the Fifish V6 Plus – is connected to the drone by a cable. It can be rolled out to a depth of 150 meters. The operator receives the image wirelessly via the drone. For shooting, the ROV features a 12-megapixel 4K UHD camera with a 1/2.3” Sony CMOS sensor.
Such an inspection drone has the advantage that maritime infrastructure can be inspected in one go. It is no longer necessary to call in separate teams for the construction above water and the foundations underwater. In addition, the ROV can begin a dive anywhere on the water’s surface, including some distance from the operator.
“In offshore wind energy, the drone can be used to perform complex inspections and maintenance work on the frames and foundations to greatly reduce human risks,” said a QYSEA spokesperson. “In the aquaculture sector, the drone can be used to monitor crops, as well as perform maintenance and repair work using the ROV’s many additional tools. Other maritime applications include search and salvage operations, hull inspections and various other submarine activities.”
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