Although ROVs are highly capable of performing a variety of underwater operational tasks on their own, getting them to actual dive sites can still prove challenging at times. An all-new integrated system is designed to help, by using an aerial drone to transport and deploy a compact-sized professional ROV.
World's First Sea-to-Air Integrated Drone Redefines Offshore Operations
Known as the Sea-Air Integrated Drone, the hybrid setup was recently demonstrated in December of 2021 at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise amusement park in Yokohama. The project was brought to life and into the oceans through a partnership between Japanese telecommunications operator KDDI, commercial drone manufacturer PRODRONE, and underwater robotics firm QYSEA Technology. The revolutionary drone aims to modernize offshore and marine operations through its intelligent capabilities, seamless operational efficiency, and minimized human risks.
Seamless Operation from Land, Air, and Sea
The world's first sea-to-air drone essentially features the combination of a heavy-duty aerial drone and QYSEA’s industrial- class FIFISH PRO V6 PLUS ROV. This ambitious project had been set out by KDDI six years earlier, who had sought to combine advanced mobile communication networks with high-performance UAV technologies that would deliver extended flying distances and operating times.
The drone is operated remotely to fly to its pre-set route at sea. After landing at its designated location, the FIFISH ROV is released and deployed to work. Using a 5G system and network, the pilot is then able to remotely operate the ROV from a safe working location, and perform a variety of underwater inspection, maintenance, and repair tasks. A shore-based human operator utilizes long-range mobile communications to initially fly the system out to its offshore destination, where they are guided by both GPS and a real-time feed from the multicopter's onboard cameras. The user then lands the copter on the water, where it rests on attached floats, with one on each of its six arms. The FIFISH is subsequently released from its cage but remains attached to the multicopter by its communications cable. It then proceeds to perform its dive, controlled remotely by the operator, who is now watching the real-time video feed through the ROV’s 4K camera. Once the diving task is complete, an electric winch on the multicopter is used to pull the FIFISH back into its cage, so that the vehicle as a whole can fly back to its onshore destination.
The technological achievement between KDDI and QYSEA has resulted in the first commercial drone capable of operating seamlessly through land, sea, and air.
Elevating upon Traditional Methods
Traditional and widely used methods for underwater inspections often involve challenges with time, energy, monetary costs, and human risks, where human workers needed to drive boats out to offshore platforms and make multiple dives through unpredictable, and at times dangerous, underwater environments to complete their inspections.
The KDDI and QYSEA jointly developed ‘Sea-Air Integrated Drone’ provides a breakthrough within remote marinebased operational work. Without needing to leave their onshore working locations, operates can safely and efficiently conduct inspections with real-time visual feedback.
In addition, operators can carry out tasks using a variety of sampling, measurement, and manipulation tools, as well as live-stream missions for multi-person collaborations.
Essential Marine-based Applications
The ‘Sea-Air Integrated Drone’ shows to have far-reaching applications across various marine-based industries. Some of the drone system's possible applications include the inspection, maintenance, and repair work in aquaculture operations, offshore wind turbines, or other subsea infrastructures. The system will also be beneficial across scientific studies, hull inspections, or search and recovery missions.
Within offshore applications, the drone system can safely fly out to areas, deploying the ROV in unpredictable ocean environments and compact spaces to perform complex inspections and maintenance work of frames and foundations. For marine farms far away from shores, the drone system takes off and accurately lands at its destination, where the ROV is released to monitor livestock and crops, as well as perform net repairs, sick fish removal, and samplings of water quality through the ROV’s multitude of add-ons.
With further details of its release coming in 2022, the ‘Sea-Air Integrated Drone’ will undoubtedly lead an essential path towards the development of a sustainable ocean economy and the global goal of carbon neutrality.
Additional Vehicle Integrations with the Fifish
In China’s Shandong province, QYSEA has recently teamed up with local technology scientists to debut the nation’s first unmanned drone and ship for mariculture operations. Utilizing remote communication technologies, aquaculture farmers and scientists can sail out to farms to monitor livestock and crops from a safe onshore location.
Through the technological collaboration of ocean robotics and artificial intelligence, the unmanned sea vehicle delivers seamless surface-to-underwater control, ultraclear and real-time imaging feedback, as well as remote autonomous operational capability. With fewer required costs, manpower, and energy, the emergence of compact unmanned ROVs is a great breakthrough in efficiency and sustainability, compared to the traditional methods used in mariculture operations. Established in 2016 within the heart of China's technology and manufacturing hub, QYSEA is committed to delivering exceptional expertise in the R&D, manufacturing, and sales of underwater robots. As a company, they have broken numerous industrial barriers to establishing a leading market position with their ROV technologies, proudly garnering recognition for their innovations (CES, Future Maker, GIC) and functionalities (iF Design, Good Design).
Fifish Pro V6 Plus ROV
FIFISH PRO V6 PLUS is a compact-sized expert in advanced underwater solutions. With a diving depth of 150 meters, an intelligent interface to add on a variety of add-on tools, and the all-new integration of a Q-motor stabilization system, small-scale underwater operations can be fully optimized.
The FIFISH PRO V6 PLUS delivers 6 degrees of freedom, allowing the operator to achieve any posture and angle of movement. With the intelligent distance and altitude lock systems, the ROV adapts to unpredictable environments to move with boosted stability.