Most drones we know are controlled by their owners from a relatively safe surrounding. An underwater drone would be remote controlled by users from the shore or from a ship/vessel on the water. However, Allec, the new submarine drone being developed by Supportive Robotics, Denmark is rather unique. Allec can be remote controlled, but can also perform autonomous missions.
Allec is set up to be your perfect partner for some underwater exploration, without you having to dive down deep into it! Allec can go dive up to 50-m (164-ft) under water. The underwater robot can be controlled using a mobile app or a PC controller. And yes, there is the Autonomous mode. Allec can be flexibly operated in either the remote-controlled mode or autonomous, or a combination of both.
Remote-control mode: An anchored float (or bouy) equipped with Wi-Fi is used to maintain contact and retain control of the drone. The buoy is attached to the drone using an electric cable that transmits signals and receives footage from the drone under water. The user can receive the footage from the drone on his mobile device in real time over wireless. The same mobile device is also used as the controlling device.
Autonomous mode: The drone tracks a preprogrammed path using what is commonly known in navigation parlance as ‘dead reckoning’ system. A set of navigational instruments (compass, accelerometer, magnetometer, water flow meter and gyroscope) is used to calculate its current position in terms of deviation from a previously determined position based upon estimated speed, elapsed time and direction. The drone is also fitted with a pressure sensor to gauge its depth.
Some of Allec’s defining features include:
- A 1080p/30fps video camera to capture live video feeds
- A 32 GB internal storage to save the captured information when not transmitting
- A collision mitigating system to ensure its safety and that of its surrounding aquatic life
- An AI-based ORS (Object Recognition System) to identify a variety of targets, including fish, seaweed and even divers
- Digital mapping of captured images
- LED headlight for low-light conditions (remote controlled or automatic below certain threshold light)
- Interchangeable batteries (with 1.5 hours battery life) for on-the-spot swapping
Allec uses artificial intelligence to categorize what it sees into ten categories. For now it is capable of identifying among others the Sea bed, Sea weed, Open water, Wrecks, Fishing nets, Diver, Fish and Jellyfish. While this allows the drone to actively avoid obstacles, the same feature can be used to search for above things. Allec’s makers also claim that users can teach Allec to identify newer objects.
The programming available in Allec allows users access to a number of predefined tasks, such as scouting, looking for a specific object and reach a pre-determined location. Advanced users can use its AI programming interface to create new missions or tweak the predefined ones. While this looks fun for now, the uses of Allec could be limitless in the real world, given its inherent flexibility.