Efficiently search for missing persons with an ROV

Five people have died due to severe weather in the south of France. Others are still missing. When there is severe weather with flooding, Search & Rescue teams are deployed to look for missing persons. However, this is not without danger. Deploying an ROV can reduce danger and provide support.

The cause of the heavy rain and wind was the low pressure system Monica, which already caused numerous problems in Spain last weekend. The major flooding is the result of downpours equivalent to a month’s worth of rain, but within 24 hours. The weather institute Météo France had issued code yellow and code orange in advance and asked residents to be careful.

The people involved were all in cars that were swept away by the floods. Dozens of emergency workers are busy searching for the missing people. Helicopters, boats, dogs and drones are also used. ROVs can be used to make the search more efficient and less time-consuming.

Search & Rescue teams                                                                                                                                                                                  When people are reported missing, a search & rescue team is deployed. This team will thoroughly search the flood area to find the victims. In the Netherlands, an area is divided into grids, after which each grid is searched by a diver. This method is used to structure the search and ensure that every area is searched. However, dividing an area into grids takes a lot of time. After the missing person is found, they are brought to the surface or shore, depending on the risk to the diver and the victim.

The fire brigade of the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region has currently purchased 3 ROVs from H2O Drones to support them in the safety and efficiency of the diving operations they carry out in their region.

Deployment of an ROV                                                                                                                                                                        Underwater drones can never completely replace these search teams and divers. What an ROV does offer is the ability to improve the mission when it comes to time and efficiency. An underwater drone can be deployed many times faster than an entire team of divers. The use of a drone also makes grid division unnecessary. If the ROV is equipped with a GPS system, it will keep track of which parts have already been searched and which have not. An ROV has much better visibility underwater than a normal diver. Because this underwater drone is equipped with sonar, it can see up to 40 meters ahead. So much more efficient!

In addition to the fact that working with an ROV is faster and more efficient, it also provides a safer environment for the search team. Before a diver enters the water, the ROV can first search the area for any hazards. Without doing this, the diver does not know what awaits him in the water. It can then get stuck or become entangled. By using an ROV you make the mission a lot safer for both diver and victim.

See below how an ROV can help save lifes:

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Protecting our safety with an ROV

There is currently a threat to the infrastructure in the North Sea. This vital infrastructure must be protected against sabotage and digital attacks. This is necessary to lead our daily lives safely, environment, climate and energy generation. To protect the infrastructure, work must be done at a depth of 80 meters, under water. An ROV is the perfect candidate for jobs like this.

The North Sea contains an enormous amount of cables, pipes and wind farms that, among other things, make our energy supply and internet connections possible. Rijkswaterstaat already presented some facts about the North Sea. For example, in the Dutch part of the North Sea there are 2,500 kilometers of pipelines and 4,000 kilometers of cables. Rijkswaterstaat also investigates water and soil quality with an ROV and uses this to track lost cargo and shipwrecks.

A current threat                                                                                                                                                                                                        The sabotage of Nord Stream, cut cables off the coast of Norway and Taiwan and an increased threat from China and Russia in several places are a few examples of the security problems taking place in this area. The Johan de Witt Conference has called for prioritizing the protection of seabed infrastructure. This is a conference on maritime-military, political and business topics. The French already have a new strategy for Seabed Warfare, the United Kingdom is developing special frigates and Belgium has a Minister for the North Sea. With an ROV you can detect and identify objects that do not belong in this infrastructure. This is because the ROV is equipped with a full-color 4K HD camera and sonar, which sees everything underwater and detects every crack from up to 40 meters away.

A map of the North Sea

Difficult situation                                                                                                                                                                                                    What makes the situation in the North Sea so difficult is that there is a lack of legislation and regulations regarding who is allowed to conduct research on the seabed. This causes a lot of uncertainty. 97 percent of communication, such as telephone calls, data or emails, runs via submarine fiber optic cables. These cables are not managed by the government, but by many different private parties. Currently, those with the best equipment can get to this infrastructure the fastest. Work has to be done at a depth of 80 meters, where it is pitch dark.

Protection with an ROV                                                                                                                                                                                        A perfect means to monitor the infrastructure in the North Sea in these circumstances is an ROV. This underwater drone can reach a depth of 200 to 305 meters, depending on the ROV. The ROV has sonar that sees underwater as well as the human eye. Sonar detects every small crack and subsidence up to 40 meters away. In addition, the underwater drones are equipped with shadowless, dimmable LED spotlights. This makes everything clearly visible, even in the dark. For example, cracks in pipes and broken cables.

Because many wind turbines are still being built in the North Sea, the underwater situation is becoming more threatening than ever. In the coming years, this sea will function as one of the largest power stations in the world. This means even more power cables, in addition to the existing fiber optic cables and oil and gas pipelines. This makes the infrastructure on the seabed increasingly vulnerable. Deploying an ROV can help detect explosives or eavesdropping equipment, for example. Thanks to the full-color 4K HD camera and sonar on this ROV, investigating the underwater infrastructure is a simple job that produces a clear image. This is still difficult, because without the use of an ROV with sonar, cracks and defects are difficult to discover at a depth of 80 meters in dark water.

See below, how sonar works:

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An ROV offers the solution against underflow

For the umpteenth time, the construction pit in the Juliana Canal between Berg and Obbicht filled with water on February 23, 2023. The cause of this is that water passed under the sheet pile wall. Work was underway here to widen the canal in South Limburg. However, this project has been on hold for almost a year now. Thanks to preliminary inspections with an ROV, this recurring problem can be prevented.

For two months, work was done on widening the canal in the dry cofferdam in the Juliana Canal, until the cofferdam filled up with water, within seven minutes. All employees working at the time managed to save themselves and all their materials just in time. After research, Deltares concludes that the water from the canal side has flowed under the sheet pile wall. So there was a case of underflow.

Systematic research                                                                                                                                                                                      Deltares has conducted research with the aim of learning from this situation and preventing it in the future. They looked at measurements, video images and eyewitness accounts. Careful examination of, among other things, the monitoring well data and the drawn sheet pile walls confirms that water has passed under the sheet pile wall. After this, the wall collapsed due to the water pressure. What would be a good addition is to carry out preliminary inspections. This can be done with an ROV, which can see everything clearly underwater.

Underflow                                                                                                                                                                                                  Underflow occurs when there is a large water level difference. This can be caused when the water on one side is higher on the other side. The flow then occurs when the soil is well-drained. This happens very slowly in the beginning, but the longer the underflow continues, the faster the leaching occurs. The flow can be prevented by ensuring that there is no water level difference. At that moment the cause would be gone. If it is not possible to prevent the water pressure difference, poorly permeable material must be placed around the sheet pile wall. This restricts the flow. Is the ground around the dam made of permeable material and is there a water level difference? Then there will always be a current under the wall.

Excavators at work in a construction pit

Not the first time                                                                                                                                                                                                           This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Something similar happened in September 2020, between Stein and Urmond. The presence of old, underground pipes was then taken into account, which meant that the sheet pile walls could not be installed at their full depth. The water then flowed under the sheet pile walls, causing the construction pit to fill up.

ROV during inspection                                                                                                                                                                                               To prevent these types of incidents, using an ROV during an inspection is a good solution. This underwater drone can investigate everything underwater before the project starts. For example, you could see in advance whether there is a passage somewhere in the sheet pile wall through which water can pass, or whether the sheet pile wall is already provided with material that does not allow water to pass through properly. An ROV can provide good insight into what is happening underwater using the 4K camera, sonar, bright lights and thickness gauge. This gives you a clear picture of whether a specific project is safe to carry out.

Watch the video below to see how we inspect a sheet pile wall:

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Record number of wind turbines calls for more ROV inspections

The number of wind turbines on the Dutch coast is increasing enormously. Since 2022, the number of wind turbines has increased by as much as 40 percent. The more wind turbines, the more inspections need to take place. Regular inspections are necessary for proper maintenance, but can be dangerous to humans. For an ROV, however, this is a different story. 

The Netherlands is currently the record holder in the EU for the most offshore wind energy. This is not surprising, given that the goal is to have 75 percent of our electricity supplied by wind turbines by 2030. Wind energy is cheap, does not emit CO2 and you are not dependent on other countries for supply. 

Inspection hazard                                                                                                                                                                                              Inspecting a wind turbine is not just something. It is a dangerous job, which has caused many accidents in previous years. The traditional way of inspecting is to have someone climb the tower. This must be done on both the outside and inside. The dangerous thing about this is that the mills are eighty meters high, the blade diameters are one to three meters and the exits are minimal. One of the accidents was the unforgettable incident in 2013 when two technicians died in a fire in the turbine.

The costs of a manual inspection can also be significant. Many specialists work on it and the average turbine takes three to six hours to complete, without counting the preparation time. Do this for wind farms with multiple wind turbines and several times a year, you will lose a lot of money and time, while it could also be done differently. 

Use of drones                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An alternative is to use drones to do the dangerous work, instead of employees. A drone can conduct extensive research from the air without any safety risks. Moreover, this method of inspection can be performed in only 12 percent of the time required for a traditional inspection. One downside to flying drones is that the turbine hubs and blades can pose a challenge for navigation. Strong winds can also knock the drone out of place.

windmills near the sea experience strong gusts  of wind


Pipe crawlers                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Pipe crawlers are ROVs that cannot swim, but can drive underwater. These robots have metal wheels that allow them to stick to the surface of the wind turbine. They are therefore ideal for inspecting the windmill blades. They can drive through the turbine from top to bottom and record all the images in the meantime. The crawler can also reach the narrower parts of the leaf where a human would not have been able to do so. This means that the blades can be fully inspected without danger. 

Use of an ROV                                                                                                                                                                                                                     It is important that wind turbines, that have perhaps been in the sea for some time, are inspected in time and regularly. An ROV can provide good insight into what is happening underwater using the 4K camera, sonar, bright lights and thickness gauge. We can also inspect other parts that are underwater, such as cables, cable entries and monopiles. These areas are filled with all kinds of underwater life. Think of crabs, jellyfish, starfish and coral. Take a look below at what we see at an underwater windmill. 

Using an ROV to properly inspect wind turbines underwater provides certainty and reduces risks. The number of wind farms is increasing enormously, which will also increase the demand for inspections enormously. To do this as safely and precisely as possible, using an ROV is the solution. These underwater drones are made to get a complete picture and inspect everything, in the most difficult circumstances. Inspections can now take place regularly, without safety risks, to contribute to the maintenance of underwater structures. 

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Use an ROV for better investigation of flood damage

After seeing a lot of high water throughout the Netherlands for a long time, the water level is finally starting to drop and the dikes are becoming visible again. The damage caused to dikes is being investigated, but this is only possible when there is no high water. The use of an ROV allows earlier damage investigation, which can help prevent problems. How can we at H2O Drones contribute to this with our ROVs? 

Due to the heavy rain that has fallen in recent weeks, the water level in the Netherlands has risen enormously. Partly due to high water from the rivers in Germany, storm Pia and rain that has fallen, the Dutch soil has become so saturated that it can no longer absorb water. The earth acts like a kind of sponge. It can absorb a lot of water, but once it is full, it will not absorb any more water. When no more water is absorbed, the water level rises with each additional drop. 

Dike damage 

As a result of the high water, a lot of waste and debris was carried along by the water. This can get caught on something and cause damage. Any dike weakening that animals may cause while digging is investigated. This can happen, for example, when moles start digging a little higher than they normally do. Moles do this when dikes are completely saturated, which in turn causes the lower corridors to fill with water. Now that the high tide is falling again, the dikes can slide, which can result in parts of the dike falling down. 

Investigating flood damage 

Since the water level is dropping again, inspectors can now investigate the damage caused. Research is normally done by the Union of Water Boards. They do this by measuring the height and width of the dike, checking the condition of the soil, checking the level of the groundwater and measuring and drilling pieces of soil. They now investigate the damage caused by animals with a heat detector. This allows them to see where in the dike animals last dug. Using the method currently used, research cannot be carried out when there is high water. Because the surveys take place on land: checking the bottom, measuring the width and height, etc., the surveys can only take place when the water level is lower again. 

To be able to investigate the damage during high tide, a good option is to use underwater drones. These can already be deployed during high tide, because these drones work well underwater. You can see everything underwater, because these underwater drones have a lowlight 4K camera and sonar. Sonar detects every crack and subsidence at a distance of forty meters, regardless of the water quality.

A crack caused by the digging of a mole

Why use an underwater drone? 

Using an underwater drone can provide greater clarity and precision during the investigation. Thanks to further developed technology specially designed for underwater inspections, damage investigation is already possible while the Netherlands is still affected by high water. The drone records images and broadcasts them live, so everyone can watch. Monitoring provides a lot of clarity, because several people can watch an inspection at the same time, allowing inspectors to make immediate decisions. An underwater drone could therefore help enormously in detecting dangers and preventing any problems. The ROV gives a clear picture of what everything looks like underwater. It is the best option for an accurate and fast investigation. 

See below how an ROV works underwater:

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ROVs and wind turbines: necessary partners

Offshore wind turbines have become part and parcel of the Dutch landscape. Unfortunately, the elements are constantly affecting these white giants. Corrosion and other types of damage are real threats to the wind turbines. Both above- and underwater, their status needs to be monitored. That is where Remotely Operated Vehichles (ROVs) can help. These high-tech robots offer insight, data and safety. Below, we explain how it works.

As an ROV specialist, we know all about our ROVs, but also about deployment. This also applies to offshore wind farms. We have already successfully carried out several inspections in this sector. Thanks to the data an underwater inspection with an ROV provides, accurate maintenance strategies can be developed to monitor the structural integrity of the wind turbine as efficiently as possible.

What we see
Especially now that most wind turbines have been in the sea for some time, it is important to inspect them on time and regularly. Equipped with a 4K camera, bright lights, sonar and a thickness gauge, an ROV can provide instant insight into what is happening below the waterline. During an underwater inspection, all other parts of a wind turbine can also be viewed.

The cables located underwater, the cable entrances and the ecological aspect of the wind turbine. This is because wind turbine monopiles are filled with life, such as crabs, jellyfish, starfish and coral. The cables and cable entrances are an important part of the wind turbine’s construction and facilities. A visual inspection of these provides assurance and reduces risks.


What we offer
We sell ROVs, but can also be hired. Our ROV pilots are trained for offshore inspections and are certified according to the Global Wind Organisation, among others. We can be deployed for several days in a row to inspect a wind turbine from head to toe. In fact, ROVs can also inspect wind turbine components located above water. A life-threatening job for humans, but a risk-free undertaking for a robot. Thanks to the exceptional designs of our ROV, we can reach places of a wind turbine that no one else can, such as the inside of the blades. You can read more about this in this blog.

When it comes to sales, we like to help make the right choice. Together with the customer, we figure out the best options to shape the ROV to the right conditions. We also offer a course on how to use and operate the drone, so that operators know all the ins and outs of the ROV. Of course, we are always available to our customers. That includes not only questions, but also service in the form of repairs. An overview of our offer can be found here.

An ROV is the best option for complete imaging of underwater assets. These robots are specially designed to perform this kind of inspection in the harshest conditions. It not only provides pretty pictures, but actively and accurately contributes to the maintenance of underwater structures. In doing so, it prevents not only high bills, but also unnecessary safety risks.

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The solution everyone is looking for: sonar and ROVs

Familiar with a firewater tank, culvert, or ship? Then it is nice to have an insight into the status of these structures. The objects just mentioned are just one example of what we can inspect with our ROVs thanks to sonar. Dry pumping or docking is a thing of the past, thanks to this development in the field of underwater inspections.

For us, the importance of inspection is preventive. We want to know if there is damage to an underwater asset that could pose a risk in the short or long term. You don’t need to inspect some structures as often as others, simply because their use is lower. You don’t need to inspect a bridge every time a car drives over it.

Your best friend on board
Ships are therefore a separate case. Unknown damage to a ship can have nasty consequences. Being aware of the status of the bow or plane before you set sail is useful information. A small leak, some rust or a lot of fouling are damage factors you want to keep a close eye on for optimal sailing. But putting the ship in dry dock or swimming underneath to keep an eye on it are not exactly the easiest or cheapest options right now.

While you stand dry on board, leaning on the gunwale, driving the ROV or letting us do the work, is then a better option. Not only is it easier, but also much more accurate.

Up to 200 metres crisp visibility
That accuracy is thanks to sonar. Our ROVs are equipped with this state-of-the-art technology to detect every hairline crack. Visibility in most waters is far from clear, making underwater surveys difficult with the naked eye.

Sonar sees right through floating sediment and other disturbing factors. This allows you to detect objects up to 200 metres away at the same quality as 10 centimetres. A tool that has already helped detect damage to underwater infrastructure, ships and during search and rescue missions on many occasions.

Time and again, the technology of sonar on our ROVs proves itself in underwater inspections. We hear nothing but positive feedback when we deliver our reports using sonar. At least, we do hear that it is sometimes difficult to read the sonar. That is why we explain what is visible on the sonar and compare it with our 4K camera images, if possible. Transparency is of great importance to us.


Below is a video of a ship inspection with both 4K images, and sonar. Judge for yourself the quality of our sonar and who knows, you might see a solution in your own area!

Of the purest water: the image quality of our ROVs

Nine times out of ten when we conduct inspections in the Netherlands, the water is far from clear. That makes for less spectacular images from our ROVs with the 4K camera. Here and there there is an exception, but often we fall back on sonar for accuracy. Abroad, things are often different….

At the beginning of our existence, all Remotely Operated Vehichles (ROVs) we inspected with were equipped with an HD camera. Supported by LED lighting, we were able to provide both high quality and high visibility in any location, provided the water quality allowed. Often when light is used in murky water, particles in the water reflect the light, still limiting visibility. Our LED lighting minimizes that, but sometimes we still can’t see anything due to water quality. But then we inspect with sonar. This method of inspection is common for us, but we also like to show what is possible in clear water.

Innovation is key
Our method of underwater inspection is an innovation in the industry. We therefore have innovation as one of our high-level core values. Together with our supplier Deep Trekker, we scour every opportunity for groundbreaking ideas and projects. One such innovation in ROVs is underwater visibility.

The most important part of the underwater drones are the cameras. Therefore, optimizing that function must grow with the technology of the moment. For a while now, therefore, our ROVs have been equipped with Ultra High Definition Cameras, or 4K cameras. The razor-sharp image quality now provides even more precise results during inspections.

Not only is the quality of the image important, but also the live observation. Combined with the cable connected to the drone, we can always view live image in 30 FPS. No glitches, hiccups or pixels while inspecting with the ROV. Reliability on quality and image then simply becomes a habit.

Sublime substitute
Now the picture in practice. In 2022, we were asked to take a look at the Königssee in Germany. This gigantic lake, which is also the deepest lake in Germany, not only provided beautiful pictures above water, but also underwater. The question to us was simple: what is at the bottom?

The question of looking for something, without knowing what, is familiar to us. A lake about 190 meters deep can hide all kinds of things at the bottom. From our experience, these did not turn out to be lost treasures, but rather pipes or cables that have not been mapped before or known about at all. This is almost more valuable to our client than a sunken treasure.

Having an ROV descend into such a deep body of water is the only option for many clients to inspect the bottom. Letting a human take the leap into the deep involves too high a risk. An underwater drone is then an excellent alternative. Especially if it provides razor-sharp images.

In the video below you will find a compilation of our underwater mission in the Königssee.

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H2O Drones and Ghost Diving for a clean sea

Ghost Diving and H2O Drones have been working together for a long time. What is striking is that Ghost Diving is much different from the other partners; they have nothing to do with water infrastructure or search and rescue organizations. So what does Ghost Diving do? They clean the sea! And they do this side by side with the ROV DTG3.

The DTG3 was gifted to Ghost Diving at the time by H2O Drones’ supplier, Deep Trekker. Two years ago, Deep Trekker celebrated its tenth anniversary and they chose to donate a drone to Ghost Diving because of the noble work they perform: fishing indigestible fishing nets and gear out of the sea.

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“More suggestions than facts”
According to Pascal van Erp, president of Ghost Diving, pollution from fishing gear is a major and still growing problem. At the bottom of the North Sea there are a lot of shipwrecks with polluting fishing gear. “Really unbelievably many. So around ten thousand.” There was a lot of fishing in the North Sea in the 1950s, and due to various mistakes, this has left the bottom contaminated with fishing gear. For example, it goes overboard or is left behind. And that still happens all over the world. “It’s so full of gear there, it’s almost impossible to describe. The problem with that is the material of fishing gear. There are some studies that describe the durability of fishing gear, but it takes so long for it to break down, that those studies are more suggestions than facts. From that, we were born.”

Escalation for a good cause
Van Erp explains that he has been active as a diver for a long time. Since 2007/2009 he has been retrieving fishing gear from the sea, together with his team of divers. From that, Ghost Diving was born. “At the time we did that with a group of friendly divers, but that escalated a tad as more and more people joined. Then we transformed into a foundation and we continue to grow. There are now about fifty of us divers and a core team.”

H2O Drones was involved in the donation of the drone. As they are based in the Netherlands and Ghost Diving mainly operates in the North Sea and Mediterranean Sea, H2O Drones was asked to provide maintenance and service for Ghost Diving. Since then, H2O Drones and Ghost Diving have been working together for a cleaner sea. A short time ago, H2O Drones came to the rescue because a cable had been cut by a boat propeller. This was then quickly replaced so that operations could resume in no time.

Safety first
According to Ghost Diving, the drones and service of H2O Drones are ideal for the continuity of the work. In some places in the North Sea it is sometimes too dangerous to dive or divers are not allowed to dive at all. A drone is then ideal for inspecting the underwater environment. “The divers are often in danger underwater, because water is unpredictable,” says Mr. K. K., “and they are not allowed to dive at all.” A drone can keep an eye on the divers or even do some of the diver’s work if conditions are too risky to dive. “It also saves a lot of money and a lot of time, because we don’t have to send a whole team underwater, for example. A drone can watch everything that way and ensure safety. Even in murky water, because they are equipped with sonar.”

Help and service
“We needed someone who has a lot of expertise and understanding of the aquatic world and H2O Drones has proven that twice over,” says Van Erp. He emphasizes that knowledge about drones and the underwater world is very important to their foundation. “The help is very valuable to us that we get from H2O Drones. They provide the right support and have the right knowledge. When we use it in our environment, we get a lot of positive feedback and notice the curiosity about the underwater drones.”

Partners in crime
“They’ve gone with us a few times already, along with the drone. Those were very successful days. It was super convenient that they were along, because we knew nothing about the drone. After such a day we were convinced that H2O Drones had to be our partner in crime,” says Van Erp.

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Underwaterdrones in unexpected places!

Under water drones are often used to make the work of divers easier and for safety reasons. Situations like this often occur in rivers, pipelines and locks. But ROVs can also be used with less obvious assets. These are locations that you never think about, or didn’t know about!

Drones in nuclear power plants

Especially in nuclear power plants, drones can be of great importance. The water in which underwater drones can enter is usually cooling water, in which various assets are located. Because this water can be hot and may contain radiation, it is less desirable to take divers into the water. Of course, it is important to check whether everything is still in order at a nuclear power plant in order to prevent disastrous consequences!

See here how an inspection of a nuclear power plant can look like!

Water in the food industry

ROVs can also be used in large factories in the food industry. Not so much in consumer goods, of course, but mainly in the factory’s cooling waterpipes and outlets. By deploying an ROV here, a cooling water pipe can remain active, and the factory does not have to be shut down.

Extinguishing watertanks and basements

Extinguishing water is used for exactly what you expect it to be used for – extinguishing fires. Fire water tanks are often connected to large fire hydrants or sprinkler systems. It is not necessary for this water to be potable, but the tanks must not have sand at the bottom. This can cause a crucial obstruction in pipes and must be removed from the tank.

Instead of emptying the tank and removing both all of the water and the sand, this is also possible with a suction robot! The DT640-VAC can drive over the bottom and pick up sediment from the bottom with a kind of vacuum head. In this way, there is much less water loss and the result can be seen immediately with a camera in this vacuum robot.

Why under water drones?

Drones are quick and easy to deploy, do not require safety regulations and are compact. The camera and sonar capabilities make data processing smart and fast.
With many possible accessories, a drone or robot can be customised to meet any challenge!

Do you want to know more about drones, or see if they can be used at a location of your choice? Then contact us here.

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