A US-based university has developed the amphibious Loon Copter drone that can operate above, on the surface and below water, moving faster than a submarine.
The Loon Copter uses a buoyancy bladder to help it stay on top of the water upon landing, which is then let down to allow it to dive underneath the surface.
At this point, it tips to the side, transforming it into a submarine to swim down to the depth required. It’ll then turn back upright and the piot can then drive it underwater as usual, turning up, down, left and right as needed.
A camera can record everything in its surroundings, although it’s not yet able to stream live video back to the controller – it can only be seen after the trip.
When the drone is ready to take to the skies once again, the pilot can tell it to empty its buoyancy chamber of water and it’ll start to rise back up again.
“The Loon Copter can loiter on the surface of the water without energy usage,” the drone’s lead scientist Dr. Osamah Rawashdeh explained to Gizmag. “It can also change and control depth with little power. Not having to propellers to change depth or resurface also has an advantage when obstacles (e.g. structures or vegetation) are close to the drone. We can resurface without hitting any obstacles.”
The Loon Copter has been designed for a number of different operations including underwater pipeline inspections, search and rescue missions or studying marine life. It can also be used to deter sharks, the researchers said, landing on areas where they have been spotted and chasing them away.
The next steps of development are to add acoutstic modems, repeater buoys and live streaming, plus measure certain other data points to feed back to the operator.