A low-cost alternative to using divers and remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) is being marketed to ship operators: an underwater drone.
Norway’s Blueye Robotics has designed the vehicle, which it calls Blueye Pioneer, so that it can be operated by a ship’s crew using a smartphone or a tablet computer. At an estimated cost of US$4-5,000 per drone, several could be used at the same time, the company’s chief executive, Erik Dyrkoren, suggested in a statement today (19 May).
They would be used outside of dry-docking periods to carry out inspections during transit and when entering ports, his statement said, to check such things as the vessel’s structural integrity, its inlet and discharge valves, rudder, propeller, coatings and corrosion. It would also help check for explosives and smuggled goods.
Blueye Pioneer is driven by thrusters powerful enough to operate in heavy currents and can dive to 150m. It can transmit live video via a thin umbilical cable to the surface from where it is sent wirelessly to the user, who could be onboard or ashore, the statement said. The drone measures 45cm x 25cm x 35cm and weighs 7kg.
• Blueye Robotics has been spun off from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems.