In 2016 we told you about the iBubble, an underwater drone that autonomously tracks and films divers. Well, it now has a more capable big brother for industrial use known as the Seasam.
Manufactured by French marine tech company Notilo Plus, the Seasam actually first hit the market in 2019. That said, it recently gained attention when it was featured in the horror film. the deep house, in which a diving couple explores an underwater haunted house…and yes, that is kind of a cool premise for a movie.
Like the iBubble, the Seasam is capable of wirelessly monitoring and recording HD video footage of its dive user. It does this through a combination of acoustic and computer vision technologies.
From a distance of up to a few tens of meters, it can receive the acoustic signals emitted by a control unit worn by the user. This allows it to find the person even at night or in low visibility conditions. Once it gets close enough, the drone uses its built-in 1080p/30fps camera and visual recognition system to actually spot the diver – it can then keep them focused and centered in its shot as it moves with them. In addition, it uses its own sonar system to detect and avoid obstacles.
The control unit is also used to send acoustic signal commands to the Seasam. Although the user cannot actually control the drone, they can adjust the tracking distance/angle, turn on the lights and start or stop the recording. Plus, they can set it to move in front of them (so she to follow the), to circle them while they’re stopped, to stay in place as they swim away, to surface alone, or to come right up to them so they can grab it and manually aim it at whatever they want to film.
Like the iBubble, the Seasam can be controlled remotely from the surface by connecting it to a long coiled communications cable. The user then uses a tablet-equipped handheld remote to control it and view the real-time video. Using the same visual recognition technology it uses to track divers, the Seasam (but not the iBubble) can then be instructed to keep targets such as hull sections, dock posts or underwater structures centered in its bulkhead as it moves around it — or of them, if they are mobile.
In the case of the Seasam, another remote control option is to use a motorized miniature surface craft known as the Navigator. It is connected to the drone via a shorter cable and communicates wirelessly with the operator via Wi-Fi. This means that the cable only needs to be slightly longer than the drone’s required diving depth, rather than being long enough to stretch all the way to shore.
In addition, because the Navigator can determine the underwater location of the Seasam relative to itself, it can provide the GPS coordinates for anything detected by the drone.
In terms of basic specs, the Seasam is equipped with seven thrusters, has a maximum diving depth of 100 m/328 ft (the iBubble is rated to 60 m/197 ft), can run for 1.5 hours per 2.5 hours charge of the removable 6600 mAh lithium-ion battery weighs 9 kg (20 lb) out of the water and uses two integrated 1000 lumen LED spots. Unlike the iBubble, much of its hardware and software is upgradable – for example, it can be equipped with a 4-hour battery, a 4K camera or 10,000-lumen lights, plus a top mount for third-party sensors and other devices. .
Prices for the Seasam start at €12,000 (about US$13,623). It can be seen in action, in the next video.
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Sources: Notilo Plus, edgeROV