When we think of the Drone Revolution, we immediately look to the heavens (or look out for new FAA rules); but there’s an even deeper frontier open for the commercial sector – the deep, blue sea. And, for Kickstarter project OpenROV Trident, that frontier has proven quite profitable.
The Trident is an underwater, tethered drone designed for maritime exploration – amateur and professional. With 21 days remaining, the Kickstarter project has raised more than $600,000 (of a mere $50,000 goal) with 969 backers as of Oct. 9.
Despite the Trident’s watery destinations, OpenRov co-founder Eric Stackpole can’t help but use UAV jargon when describing his vessel, usually describing it as “flying” through the water – for example, calling a recent launch at the Aquarium at the Bay in San Francisco a “test flight.” Hey, a drone is a drone.
“It can fly in long, straight survey lines called ‘transects’ as well as perform delicate maneuvers in tight spaces, all while maintaining a sleek and powerful form factor,” Stackpole enthused.
Stackpole and company say they designed the Trident to appeal both to consumer-level marine enthusiasts as well as serious ocean researchers. Along with David Lang, Stackpole founded OpenROV back in 2012 when they began to design a marine drone to find lost gold in an underwater cave (and yes, that does sound like a potential Nicholas Cage blockbuster)
The Trident is small enough to fit in a backpack and weighs less than 3 kg. It transmits live HD video via a thin tether line that can be controlled by a laptop or smart device from land. It can dive to 100 meters.
The OpenROV has partnered with Oculus to develop a VR interface, which the team tested during the recent Aquarium “flight.” Writing for Gizmodo, reviewer Annalee Newitz said, “The VR interface puts you in the cockpit of the Trident, and while it’s very beta right now, it’s obvious how fun it will be when the whole thing is perfected. You can watch the water flow around you, and curious fish faces pop into your view in glorious 3-D. It feels like an amusement park ride–except it’s real. You’re really driving around underwater, exploring.”
Due to the Trident’s popularity on Kickstarter, two early-bird opportunities have already filled up; however, a $969 investment will reserve a Trident with standard tether and wireless topside buoy.
Speaking at a recent TEDx talk, Stackpole waxed philosophical about the possibilities drones like Trident and UAVs may open up to humankind. “I like to picture a world where hundreds of thousands of people have access to these kinds of tools for exploration,” he said. “What happens when you put this kind of ability to explore the world in the hands of everybody?”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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