Advanced Navigation, an AI-based navigation hardware company located in Australia, has developed a fully autonomous underwater drone to assist researchers and scientists in overcoming the challenges they experience when collecting underwater imagery and data.
Hydrus, the drone, is a ready-to-fly device with an AI-powered sonar navigation technology that allows it to manoeuvre around obstacles like marine life while underwater. A 4K 60fps camera combined with the AI engine analyses image quality and adjusts illumination accordingly on the six-kilogram drone.
Other features include a lithium-ion battery that can last up to four hours underwater, the ability to record sound, and 256GB of internal storage. Hydrus can also travel up to 3,000 metres deep, with future versions expected to go even deeper; battle currents of up to six knots; and is built on an open platform, allowing users to load their own software and train the AI-system to recognise specific marine species, according to Advanced Navigation. Hydrus has taken Xavier Orr, co-founder and CEO of Advanced Navigation, ten years to develop.
“The ocean is an extremely challenging environment, you have up to 300 times more pressure that we have up here on the surface of the earth. There’s no internet, Wi-Fi, or GPS because radio waves don’t work underwater, and there is very little light past 20-30 metres, so the only way to communicate is through sound,” he says during the launch.
“The ocean health is critical and the first step to fixing things is collecting data so that we can understand it, so Hydrus is a new approach to restoring oceans.”
Hydrus was utilised by Advanced Navigation in collaboration with the University of Western Australia’s Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre to aid in the charting of the Ningaloo Reef. The drone can also be used to assess underwater infrastructure such as wind turbines, bridge footings, and anchors, according to Orr.
While Hydrus’ primary use is data collection, Orr points out that it can also be used by recreational users because it does not require any training or licencing. He also mentioned that the startup has gotten some early interest from filmmakers. Hydrus is set for a global release in September, with a recommended retail price of AU$55,000 for the game.