In PowerVision’s world, UAV can stand for unmanned aerial vehicle — and unmanned aquatic vehicle.
Chinese drone manufacturer PowerVision announced the new PowerRay drone — a drone that works underwater rather than in the sky. Much like how photographers use drones to get a new aerial perspective, this drone could be a game changer in underwater exploration.
Photographers might want to use it to photograph underwater worlds. Scientists might use it to conduct research in real-time, without having to go underwater themselves. Fishermen might use it to detect where fish are.
The drone, which starts at $1,488 operates very much like most consumer-level drones you’ll see on the market today. The whole thing is controlled with an RC controller. Much like how the left stick controls altitude on an aerial drone, the left stick controls the depth of the drone in the water. The right stick controls the direction that the drone swims. A mobile app allows you to livestream what the drone sees directly through your smartphone or tablet. The app also allows users to adjust camera settings.
The PowerRay drone can go as deep as about 100 feet underwater. The sonar system can detect objects up to an additional 130 meters below the robot, allowing users to detect objects up to about 230 feet below the surface. A cord attached to the drone prevents the drone from swimming off if the pilot loses control.
The biggest difference users will see in this underwater drone vs. aerial drones is operating time; the PowerVision can last up to about 4 hours on one charge.
It’s worth noting that while the light on the drone is very bright and easy to see in murky waters, the camera itself doesn’t do well. I operated the drone in the San Francisco Bay just before sunset, and I couldn’t see a thing in the camera. However, the same drone in the nearby aquarium worked beautifully in photographing the fish. If you’re looking to explore the fish in clear waters like Hawaii without getting in the water yourself, this is amazing! However, if you need to see in the bottom of a muddy pond, this isn’t for you.
The drone comes in three different models:
PowerVision, which has nearly 500 employees and was founded in 2009, makes a variety of robotics, including an unmanned aerial vehicle — the PowerEgg.
And while the PowerEgg was certainly fantastic looking and was certainly an example of thinking outside the box rather than creating a straight Phantom knockoff, it did seem a bit like reinventing the wheel; the egg design seemed a bit gimmicky to distinguish themselves from the myriad of drone companies trying to grab a piece of the drone hyped that is mostly dominated by DJI. What — really — is the benefit of an egg shaped drone besides the gimmick?
95 percent of the ocean is still unexplored, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The PowerRay seems like it has real applications that truly could revolutionize photography and science.
Happy flying, and happy swimming!