As is the case with their aerial counterparts, underwater drones may be fun at first, but after a while you'd likely want to actually do something with them. Well, Chinese manufacturer Geneinno recently took a step in that direction, by unveiling a powered manipulator arm for its Titan drone.
Successfully Kickstarted last year, the six-thruster Titan can descend to a maximum depth of 150 m (492 ft), shooting 4K/30fps video which is illuminated by two LED spotlights that put out a combined 3,000 lumens. That video is transmitted in real time to the user via an attached communications cable, which is also used to relay control commands to the drone.
The Titan also features a powered extension port on its underside, to which accessories could be attached in the future. Last week at CES 2019, Geneinno demonstrated a prototype version of one such accessory – the arm.
Measuring 20.5 inches long (521 mm), the manipulator device weighs 2 lb (907 g) on land, although that effectively drops to 0.9 lb (408 g) once it's underwater. Its pincer-type gripper can open to a maximum width of 4.5 inches (114 mm), delivering up to 17 lb (7.7 kg) of gripping force. We're told that it's possible to swap the gripper for other implements, depending on what the task requires.
There's no word on when the manipulator arm may be commercially available – or at what price – although it reportedly could be "soon."
The company has also developed a prototype hydrophone that can be mounted on the Titan's extension port, which would allow users to record underwater sounds.
By Ben Coxworth