If you’ve ever wanted to explore the ocean — or hunt for treasure buried in shipwrecks — without setting foot in the water, here’s your chance. The Trident, a remote-controlled underwater drone that’s equipped with an HD camera, is now available on Kickstarter.
The idea for the $US1000 drone (and its predecessor, the OpenROV underwater robot) came to cofounders Eric Stackpole and David Lang in 2011, when they heard rumours of gold buried in an underwater cave in Northern California.
“We never found gold in that underwater cave. We never really thought we would,” admits Lang.
Nonetheless, the pair continued creating underwater exploration tools. The Trident has everything a casual ocean explorer might need: a tether to make sure it doesn’t stray too far, thrusters to increase speed and precision of movement, and a rubber frame so that it doesn’t get damaged.
The device can dive down to 100 meters (with an extended tether available for purchase), which is deep enough to do some serious exploring but doesn’t approach deep sea depths. For perspective, the deepest part of the ocean reaches 11033 meters below the surface.
Open-source software allows drone pilots to control the Trident from a virtual cockpit on their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. That’s just the beginning, according to Lang.
“We have a prototype virtual reality cockpit that will blow your mind. It’s like in ‘Minority Report’ or ‘Iron Man,’ he says.
There are other underwater drones available, but they are generally intended for professional use — and sell for a lot more money.
The ideal consumer for the Trident is still a little unclear. But the OpenROV kit offers hints.
“People who have boats want to turn it into an exploration vehicle. One guy who runs a game store in Vancouver spends his nights and weekends driving the ROV, looking for different kinds of fish,” says Lang. “We’ve been lucky because the aerial drone market is exploding. God knows who are all these people buying aerial drones.”
Trident also has a unique feature — the ability to run lawnmower-like patterns over large areas — that makes it ideal for creating 3-D models of the seafloor.
And, of course, there are people who will use the Trident to look for buried treasure.
“There are hundreds of wrecks in the East River in New York alone that nobody has discovered. Mayor [Fiorello] LaGuardia even confiscated all the pinball machines in New York City and dumped them there, ” says Lang. “This stuff is out there.”
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