For the last couple of years, drones have been a major point of contention. The tech industry keeps popping drones out but regulators are not happy about them at all. In the superyacht industry, however, enthusiasts are always looking for the latest, cutting-edge technology.

While UAVs are certainly interesting, the focus has now shifted slightly towards autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs). In other words, superyacht owners, guests, and crew now have the option of controlling and managing an array of underwater drones.

Unmanned exploration

As is often the case with advanced technology, the first underwater drones were mostly used for research purposes by scientific organisations as well as various military institutions around the globe. Thankfully, such drones have now expanded their reach into consumer audiences as well.

One example of such a drone is the PowerRay. This underwater drone can dive down to 30 meters and use sonar to find fish up to 70 meters deep. The device is equipped with a 4K camera and an array of sensors too. All the captured data can be sent to the surface via the on-board Wi-Fi system and viewed via the companion app, available for both iOS and Android.

The PowerRay has other unique features too. A blue LED light which can apparently attract fish and a compartment which can release bait at a defined location. To control the PowerRay, users can either use a wearable device or the PowerVision VR Goggles. Using the latter, owners can control the PowerRay simply via moving their heads around.

Those looking for a simpler solution could easily turn to the Trident, developed by OpenROV. The Trident can dive up to 100 meters down the surface and capture Full HD video. Embedded LED lights on the front will also allow it to illuminate low-light areas while the camera has also been optimised for all kinds of lighting conditions.

Easy inspections

Though the drones above could be used for heavy work such as hull inspections, that is not their intended purpose. There are other commercial-grade drones which can fulfill this niche in a much better way.

Deep Trekker provides two underwater robots which have been used for an incredible range of applications. The DTG2 and DTX2 are perfect for underwater inspections and surveys though these are better suited for crew and shipyards rather than entertainment toys.

For superyacht inspection and cleaning, the Keelcrab is quite possibly the top solution. The drone is operated by a very simple remote control with an IP68 camera directing the user. It has three different certified brushes and can attach itself to the hull while simultaneously removing accumulated algae.

Usually, such drones can be found in harbours for third-party use. Of course, a superyacht could also be equipped with them so that simple cleaning and maintenance can be conducted at any harbour, not just specific ones which have already acquired such underwater drones.

Underwater entertainment

While the underwater drones mentioned above have very specific uses, mostly serving as exploration and surveillance aides, underwater drones can also be used solely for entertainment purposes.

The best example of this is probably the iBubble. This underwater drone is equipped with tracking technology which can automatically follow a diver. In essence, you could capture a dive without ever touching a camera, something that can truly disrupt the experience. The iBubble can travel extremely well underwater and can follow you to dive up to 60 meters deep. Inside its protected bubble, you can attach a GoPro and either set it to follow you or allow it to do its thing, tethering it up to 25 meters away.

Changing filming modes is incredibly simple via the included bracelet. Some fantastic technology in the background also allows the iBubble to automatically avoid coral reefs and other obstacles.

If you would prefer to explore the ocean with a GoPro without having to dive in yourself, the Seawolf Ocean Master provides a great alternative. It can be controlled via a high lumen 7-inch screen and attached controller and supports both GoPro and Sony’s Action Cam.

The many faces of underwater drones

Underwater drones, like their aerial counterparts, have a multitude of different uses. Militaries around the world are already using them for stealth operations and for dangerous operations, such as removing mines.

Moreover, underwater drones have already been used for security operations. In Somalia, for instance, such devices have been used to combat piracy. On a related example, Cracuns are drones that can be stealthily stored underwater for months and then launched at the operator’s discretion.

AUVs will surely continue to serve a multitude of different purposes for superyacht owners, from entertainment to maintenance and beyond. Technology is advancing rapidly and the next few years will see the rise of innovative concepts, such as swarms of underwater drones that may be able to quickly inspect the hulls of superyachts with little supervision from crew.