If you’re looking for new ways to record your experiences underwater, you need to know about BIKI – the world’s first bionic underwater drone. Due to hit the market next month, the fish-shaped robot swims to depths of up to 60 meters/ 196 feet, allowing you to take high-quality photos and video remotely.
A Kickstarter Success Story
BIKI is the product of an entrepreneurial technology company called ROBOSEA, which specialises in underwater robots. It isn’t the team’s first achievement – amongst other things, they have also successfully created robots that monitor water quality and regulate pollution. The funds for BIKI’s research and development were raised on Kickstarter, in a campaign that achieved its $20,000 goal within the first 10 hours. At the time of writing, the donated funds exceed $211,000 with four days left until the campaign closes on June 21st.
With its robotic tail fin and oversized viewing window, BIKI resembles an extra from Finding Nemo – but there’s much more to the drone than its endearing exterior. It represents the latest in bionic technology, with many of its features setting an industry precedent. For example, it is the first underwater robot to use an infrared positioning sensor to avoid obstacles (like coral outcrops and unsuspecting turtles). Its inbuilt GPS allows it to navigate back to the point from which it was deployed, and to send real-time location updates to your mobile device.
BIKI’s tail fin is made from natural rubber and an alloy with a high elasticity, allowing it to make precision movements underwater. The inbuilt camera features a 150º wide-angle lens, and can shoot 4K ultra-high definition video and 16 megapixel photography at 30 frames per second. Two 114-lumen lights mounted on the front of the drone allow it to achieve good-quality footage even in low light. Best of all, rough sea conditions (and BIKI’s own side-to-side movement) are counteracted by a cutting edge stability algorithm, ensuring that your footage is always smooth.
Using Your Underwater Drone
There are several different ways to operate the underwater drone. A waterproof controller allows you to give the robot a series of commands while submerged, including accelerate, decelerate, turn left and right, descend or ascend, take photo or video (you get the idea). In this way, BIKI can record footage of you and your buddy on a dive – giving you the ultimate souvenir of your underwater adventures. When you want to use the drone to capture a close-up shot, you can operate it manually as you would with a standard underwater camera.
When you don’t feel like getting wet, you can also control BIKI from the surface via an iOS/ Android app on your mobile device. It’s possible to pre-program customized routes for the underwater drone, which has its own inbuilt pressure sensor. If the connection is lost (or the battery life falls below 20%), BIKI automatically returns to its starting point. It takes two hours to charge fully, after which it can swim at speeds of up to 1.12 mph for between 90 and 120 minutes. It can shoot video continuously throughout that time and has a 32 GB memory.
The underwater drone is ultra-quiet, emitting just 55 decibels of sound. Its durable outer shell is made from ecological glass fiber, which also has the benefit of being resistant to corrosion, harsh weather conditions and extreme temperatures. If you’re planning to take BIKI traveling, you won’t have to fork out for hefty overweight fees on your flights – the drone weighs in at a compact 1.1 kilograms/ 2.4 pounds. Although it has yet to hit the market, 30 prototypes have been made and tested – so teething problems are likely to be minimal.
Expected to launch in August, BIKI will be marketed with a recommended retail price of $1,024. However, those that pledge $599 or more in the final days of the Kickstarter campaign will be rewarded with an underwater drone and a waterproof bag – saving you $425.