Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? This drone may find out

28 Jun 2017

Pioneer in action. Image: Blueye Robotics AS

A new drone targeting the ‘prosumer’ market could give amateur ocean enthusiasts a whole new way of looking beneath the waves.

The average scuba diver reaches depth of around 20 to 40 metres, though this varies depending on experience, training, equipment etc.

That means there are loads of things just beyond where they can see, deeper than they can reach.

Future Human


One company, Blueye Robotics, is attempting to fix that problem with the release of a new ocean drone called Pioneer, capable of reaching depths of 150 metres.

With a stable, HD colour camera, the makers hope to appeal to what they call ‘prosumers’ – amateurs with professional equipment.

The main technical issue for Blueye Robotics appears to have been colour control, with red starting to fade the deeper you get, and the undersea world becoming more green and blue.

Pioneer in action. Image: Blueye Robotics AS

Pioneer in action. Image: Blueye Robotics AS

“A custom algorithm was developed to add colour back in to photos and video captured by the Pioneer,” said Christine Spiten, co-founder of Blueye Robotics.

“Now, the mysterious realm of the ocean will be accessible to anyone with a smartphone, tablet or PC, in full HD quality.”

Accessible to anyone with $3,500 that is, for this piece of kit is hardly cheap. That said, it is still just 15pc of what this type of equipment previously cost.

Taking flight

Meanwhile, MIT researchers are aiming to develop robots that can both manoeuvre land and take to the skies.

The team worked on a system of eight quadcopter drones that can fly and drive through a city-like setting with parking spots, no-fly zones and landing pads.

“The ability to both fly and drive is useful in environments with a lot of barriers, since you can fly over ground obstacles and drive under overhead obstacles,” said Brandon Araki, lead author on the study.

“Normal drones can’t manoeuvre on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile, while having only a slight reduction in flying time.”

Plant the seed

In Australia, a pioneering new project is looking to plant 100,000 trees a day through the use of drones.

First, the drones find a decent area for tree growth, then they map the terrain. After the specifically designed algorithms choose the right spot, seeds are fired directly at the target.

“We’re firing at one a second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day – 60 teams like this will get us to 1bn trees a year,” explained Lauren Fletcher, CEO of BioCarbon Engineering, which is working on the project.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic