The first wireless underwater drone
It is known that all modern portable underwater drones use a cable for communication. Why? Radio waves don’t travel very well in water. The other side of the coin is that this cable becomes a common cause of cable tangles, especially when flying an underwater drone in difficult conditions. The Swiss company Hydromea recently presented a working prototype of the Exray underwater drone, which can be piloted through an innovative wireless network that provides real-time HD video streaming!
Key features of Hydromea Exray:
- Portable size (fits in any backpack)
- Innovative wireless optical communication system Hydromea LUMA eliminating the use of cable
- Broadcast HD video in real time
- 6 degrees of freedom with patented DiskDrive™ thruster technology
- HD quality 360-degree scanning of internal structures
- The seamless fuselage design and intelligent firmware ensure that the drone never gets stuck or lost.
- Up to 8 hours battery life
- Max. removal distance 50 meters
- Semi-standalone functionality
- Measurement of the thickness of the examined surfaces using the built-in UT-sensor
- Cleaning brush for cleaning the examined surfaces
- Oil-free system (good for environments sensitive to contamination)
Appearance of the Exray prototype
Finished view of the drone Exray
This is what the production version of the underwater drone will look like.
The general arrangement of an underwater drone.
How it works?
Unlike other ROVs*, Exray utilizes Hydromea’s innovative patented LUMA technology, which enables real-time HD video streaming underwater without the use of a cable. The power plant of the underwater drone is made up of seven patented Diskdrive thin-profile thrusters that provide the underwater robot with 6 degrees of freedom.
*ROV (Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle / Remotely operated uninhabited underwater vehicle (ROV)).
Hydromea LUMA is an underwater communication system that uses optical rather than radio waves. The technology is based on blue light, which is known to travel well under water. So with the help of light, the robot communicates remotely with a modem submerged in water. The latter is connected to the surface by a cable. The unique system was developed in collaboration with the Physical Water Systems Laboratory (APHYS) of the Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL).
Igor Martin, co-founder and CEO of Hydromea: “Because radio signals do not travel underwater, Hydromea had to develop a new technology to control the drone: a wireless optical system that uses light to transmit high bandwidth data. Thanks to our unique technology, which is robust and tiny, we can finally cut the cord and unlock the freedom of portable robotics underwater.”
Optical sensor Hydromea LUMA.
DiskDrive™ is a patented, ultra-slim, rim-drive brushless thruster that is only 15mm thick. The slim size makes it ideal for use in low drag thrusters with vertical stabilization, as well as small vehicles used in confined spaces.
The hubless propeller prevents it from tangling – the thruster moves easily through floating debris such as weed or tackle. Patented design free of seals and oil, pressure resistant. And the simple design allows the user to change propellers quickly and without any special tools in just 10 seconds.
According to the developer, after the device is finished and ready for mass production, the drone will provide significant advantages in a number of inspection scenarios in closed flooded spaces, such as hydroelectric dams, closed waterways and ballast tanks on ships, and will also be relevant in missions such as surveillance of ship hulls, buoys, submarine cables and underwater structures.
About the developer
Hydromea is a Swiss company founded in 2014 dedicated to autonomous underwater robotics. Provides solutions that enable customers to have unparalleled access to subsea data and subsea assets.