Smartphones can already be used to remotely control a variety of vehicles, including flying toy helicopters and airplanes, or even starting your car. Now remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) can be added to the list with New England-based company Aquabotix rolling out its Hydroview vehicle. Equipped with LED lights and a HD video camera, the vehicle transmits a live video feed to an iOS- or Android-based smartphone, tablet, or a laptop and can be remotely operated by tilting the phone or tablet or via the laptop's touchpad.
There are plenty of potential applications for an ROV, including getting an up close and personal look at the marine life, searching the murky depths for sunken treasure, or - for boat owners - underwater boat inspection. Given its claimed maximum operating depth of 75 - 150 feet (22 - 45 m) depending on the model, the Aquabotix Hydroview should cope with all these tasks even better than the likes of Neptune SB-1, which doesn't go deeper than 16 ft (5m), or the DIY ROVs suitable for dives of 10 - 33 feet (3 - 10 m).
The Aquabotix Hydroview connects via a cable to an above surface base station, which in turn connects with the control device via Wi-Fi. Controlling the vehicle is possible by using the video feed-based onscreen interface, as well as by using an accelerometer-equipped smartphone or tablet like a steering wheel. As well as capturing HD video, you can also snap still images and automatically upload them to social media sites and the unit is quite lightweight weighing in at 8 lbs (3.6 kg), with additional 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg) per each 50 feet of cable.
There are two versions of HydroView currently displayed on the Aquabotix website: the HydroView Sport and HydroView Pro. The former can reach speeds of up to 3 kts and travel to depths of 75 ft with a battery providing up to two hours of running time, while the Pro ups the maximum speed to 5 kts, increases the maximum diving depth to 150 ft (45m) and offers three hours of battery life. Also, the Pro version is equipped with 150 feet of cable, while the Sport comes with only 50 feet - though longer sets (up to 300 ft - 91 m) are optional. The charging time is eight hours for the Pro and 16 hours for the Sport model.
The Aquabotix Hydroview Sport is currently listed online priced at US$2,995, with free delivery for U.S. customers. We've been informed by Aquabotix that the Hydroview Sport will be back in stock somewhere by the end of December. There are no details regarding availability of the Pro version just yet.