OpenROV’s Trident is a drone that soars… underwater

Forget the skies for a moment – this remote control robot lets everyone explore ‘neath the waves

The past few years have seen a sharp rise in the number of consumer drones in our skies, but what about robots that don’t fly – but instead swim? Bet you can’t think of a single one.

That’s about to change, thanks to San Francisco-based OpenROV. The startup has just opened a Kickstarter campaign for the Trident, a drone designed for underwater use.

Small, sleek and portable (under 3kg in weight), the Trident doesn’t paddle sluggishly through the water but rather soars through it majestically like… well, like an aircraft. As you can see from the GIF below, there’s some real speed to this thing, but the makers say it’s also highly manoeuvrable in tight situations, and can be slowed down so that its HD video camera can scope out something you’ve spotted.

The HD camera sends a live video feed back to you via the tether, which is directly linked to a radio buoy that floats on the water’s surface. The tether will be 25m long in the base model, but can be boosted to 100m with upgrades – meaning the Trident can dive to 100m. Your control device – laptop, tablet or smartphone – then receives the feed from the buoy via Wi-Fi.

There’s fun to be had here, of course, but OpenROV sees the Trident as a tool that can be used professionally for exploration and underwater surveys. The drone can be piloted in long straight lines, videoing the ocean, river or lake bed in a lawnmower-like pattern. The visual data collected can then be used to build 3D models of topography, shipwrecks or anything else that lies in Davey Jones’ locker.

The Kickstarter campaign has already smashed through its funding target, and pledging US$1,199 (£790) or more will get you your very own Trident. You’ll have to wait over a year for delivery, however, with November 2016 currently the prediction.