Are you thinking about buying a remotely operated vehicle or underwater drone (ROV)? There are a lot of options out there, but it's important to consider your needs and priorities when making a decision. To help you out, we've put together a guide on what to look for when buying one of these devices.
One of your first decisions is - what depths do you need the ROV to go to? This will eliminate a few choices for you straight away. What do you need it for?
First off, you'll want a vehicle that is highly manoeuvrable. This means it should have a vectored configuration and preferably six degrees of freedom for lateral freedom. A stable work platform is also important, with active depth-hold, attitude-hold, and heading-hold capabilities. You'll also want a vehicle that is independent of mains power, with battery power instead.
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Transportability is another key factor to consider. Look for a device that complies with IATA regulations and comes with suitable transport cases. Look at your countries civil aviation rules for transporting batteries. Additionally check out your preferred airlines policy on transporting the batteries - we have been caught out recently. We will share a blog on this soon! It should also be able to be operated by a small team, or one person , with a weight of less than 20 kg when in the water, a detachable tether and reel, and compliance with safety standards.
Adaptability is another important characteristic, with the ability to accept ancillary equipment and be easily modified. Perhaps you would like an extra camera? A grabber claw? Modular construction is also a plus, as it makes the device easily repaired with field replaceable components. Is it open source - and what are the benefits of this?
When it comes to beneficial characteristics, a long operational life with a battery capacity greater than 2 hours and the option to supply surface power is ideal. Camera quality is also important, with the ability to record high resolution video and stills, a variable focus lens, and variable focal length (zoom) lens. Multiple views are also helpful, with the ability to add additional cameras and a main camera on a servo-tilt mechanism.
A remote connection is a valuable feature, allowing the device to be connected to the web and livestream vision, as well as being controlled remotely. Navigational aids like sonar support are also a plus, as is a topside unit with a daylight screen and the ability to support additional viewing aids.
Of course, with so many options on the market, it can be tough to know where to start. We've done some research and found two devices, other than our own !, that are particularly noteworthy: the FIFISH V6 and the Blue Robotics ROV2.
The FIFISH V6 was released in 2019 by QYSEA Technology Co. in China. It has six thrusters, a partially vectored configuration, and is centrally ballasted. The vehicle weighs in at 3.9 kg and has six degrees of freedom. The Blue Robotics ROV2, produced by Blue Robotics in the USA, was released in 2016 and has six thrusters, a partially vectored configuration, and is ballast stabilised. It has a weight of 11 kg and four degrees of freedom. There is another model the BR2 and we rate it highly.
Ultimately, the best remotely operated vehicle or underwater drone for you will depend on your specific needs and priorities. By considering the essential and beneficial characteristics outlined in this guide, you'll be well on your way to making an informed decision.
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