February 24, 2022
What was once a tool relegated to military and scientific use, drones are now available to almost anyone at any budget. The drone industry has made its mark in fields of entertainment, securities, real estate, agriculture, inspections, logistics, law enforcement, and so much more. Drone manufacturers create multiple versions of their products to fit niche markets. Some end users need a drone with an HD camera for cinematography, while others need one with an infrared camera for search and rescue. Some end users need a drone with sensors that allow it to maneuver in GPS denied environments, while others need a drone to have sensors that can detect toxic chemicals.
Whatever the application goals are, engineers are finding ways to adapt drone technology to meet those needs. Two drone companies, one from China the other from Japan, have come together to fill yet another niche drone market. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, Qysea builds drones specifically for underwater use. Their underwater drones fall under two classes, FiFish and FiFish Pro. Within each of these categories, the drones can be custom outfitted to meet the demands of cinematography, aquaculture, search and rescue, offshore energy management, defense, conservation, research, or even just for leisure experiences. As stated on the company website, one of the features that set Qysea’s drone apart from other marine drones is that the FiFish series of drones are “the first underwater drone that allows the user to move with 360° omnidirectional mobility.”
Founded by Kazuo Ichihara, Kiyokazu Sugaki, and Masakazu Kono in 2015 out of Nagoya, Aichi, Japan, Prodrone has also found a way to corner a niche drone market. The company manufactures a wide range of customizable drones for commercial and industrial use. The drones can be outfitted to work in all the expected drone industries like agriculture, logistics, securities, and more. But perhaps the drone Prodrone has become most known for is the PD6B-AW-ARM, a drone with moveable arms that can grasp objects. The drone’s arms can lift and move objects up to 44lbs. Using this as a conceptual starting point, Prodrone has partnered with their parent company, Japanese telecommunications company KDDI, and Qysea, to create a first of its kind Sea-Air Integrated drone.
For six years now, KDDI has envisioned a platform that would combine aerial and marine drone technology to enhance offshore communications and resources. A heavy duty aerial Prodrone carries Qysea’s FiFish PRO V6 PLUS ROV in a quick release undercarriage cage. As explained in a statement from Qysea, “Through long-range mobile communications, the drone is operated remotely to fly to its preset route at sea. After landing at its designated location, the FiFish ROV is released and deployed to work. The pilot is then able to remotely operate with the ROV from a safe working location, and perform a variety of inspection, maintenance, and repair work underwater.”
The Sea-Air Integrated drone from KDDI, Prodrone, and Qysea is the first commercial drone that can seamlessly operate from land, to air, to sea. It takes multiple niche drone applications and combines them in a way that continues to prove that the drone industry is ever changing and growing.