Underwater drones are remotely operated or automated submersible robots used to carry out various functions underwater without direct human supervision.
They include tethered ROVs working on inspections and sample collection, autonomous AUVs gathering data for research, versatile hybrid drones, and small recreational models used by hobbyists for underwater photography.
The range of capabilities allows underwater drones to take on critical underwater tasks that would otherwise be difficult, hazardous or impossible with human divers.
Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)
- Tethered to a surface control station
- Used for underwater inspections, explorations, research
- Equipped with cameras, lights, robotic arms
- Useful for collecting samples, manipulating objects
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)
- Operate independently without a tether
- Programmed for mapping, data collection, monitoring
- Used in scientific research and ocean exploration
- Can explore depths inaccessible to tethered ROVs
Hybrid Underwater/Aerial Drones
- Capable of operating in air and water
- Transition between aerial and underwater environments
- Versatile for tasks requiring both domains
- Can access aquatic locations from the sky
Consumer/Recreational Submersible Drones
- Smaller and more affordable
- Geared towards hobbyists and enthusiasts
- Used for underwater photography/videography
- Allow easy access to underwater world
The wide variation in underwater drone capabilities and applications means there is an appropriate technology for many essential underwater tasks. We can expect more advances and innovations that will expand their possibilities moving forward.
How deep can underwater drones go?
Commercially available drones operate at depths from 49 to 492 feet, but specialized underwater ROVs like the SuBastian can go far deeper for scientific exploration and research. This remotely operated vehicle can descend to a maximum depth of 1,371 feet into the ocean, allowing scientists to study and collect samples from previously unexplored areas of the seafloor.
Are underwater drones worth it?
Though underwater drones seem appealing gadgets, they are quite pointless purchases if you don’t live near water or frequently vacation by the ocean or lake.
Since most people use them for recreation like capturing video footage or exploring sandy bottoms, they will just sit gathering dust if you are nowhere near suitable waters to launch and use them.
Unless you are an avid boater, swimmer, or beach lover who will regularly immerse the drone, it’s hard to justify the splurge on a toy only to be played with once annually.
What are the problems with underwater drones?
The emerging technology of underwater drones presents new scientific challenges worth exploring further, including developing improved propulsion systems to work underwater, new materials that withstand high water pressure, and transition mechanisms allowing drones to switch smoothly between air and water environments.
What happens if a drone hits water?
If your drone takes an unexpected plunge, don’t expect it to ever fully bounce back even if it seems to initially recover. Water damage will take a corrosive toll, with issues compounding over time and leading to eventual failure. So while it may fly right now, the shorted circuits and corroded components will likely ground it for good before long.
What happens if you shoot down a drone?
Taking down a drone with a weapon has serious legal risks beyond just criminal charges. The drone owner can also pursue financial damages by suing you in civil court. So shooting could lead to fines, jail time, and significant monetary penalties if you are held liable for replacing their destroyed aircraft and equipment. The law provides recourse to operators, so don’t shoot first and ask questions later.