The robot that anyone can repair

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Salmon farmers would normally have to contract a costly engineer to repair an ROV. But what if anyone on site could potentially do it?

SeaDrone is a Silicon Vally based team who were at the OceanBusiness conference in Southampton an international ocean technology exhibition, being held at the The National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

SeaDrone’s Inspector 3 PHOTO: SeaDrone

Founder Eduardo Moreno has a background in mechanical engineering graduate with a focus on robotics founded the company while working at the Stanford AI Robotics Lab.

He was there to showcase his latest underwater vehicle, the Inspector 3.

Much like Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook, Moreno launched his idea from his dormitory room while in high school in 2005.

“For the first year, we just worked on it by ourselves. We wanted to minimise the time spent on hardware but we knew that any machine will eventually break down. So we wondered how we can offer a robot that people can maintain, even if it’s 100 miles offshore,” said Moreno.

Their robots are being used by customers to performing a wide range of inspections from turbine inlets, to ship hulls, and salmon farms.

Sub-sea robots are notoriously difficult to repair, explained Moreno. For example, it can take hours to repair a thruster. And it’s costly. Salmon farmers often subcontract out highly skilled engineers when one breaks.

“With this, you still need to see the tutorial but replacing the thruster is easy and has less intense steps.”

“And that’s it” PHOTO: Owen Evans

Moreno demonstrates this by taking off the lid of the robot and flicking a wire with a screwdriver. “And that’s it,” he said.

The company says that its latest model is the most efficient open-frame vectored ROV in the market. It weighs in at 6.5kg, has no cables, and all its thrusters, lights, and camera are built into the main waterproof housing. “These modular components are low maintenance and are easy to replace,” said Moreno. The depth rating for its latest model has increased to 150 m and its top speed is 2.5 knots.

One of their robots at a salmon farm PHOTO: SeaDrone

Mowi and Akva have bought into the SeaDrone. “They made a small purchase but it’s also doing well in Chile. It still has the potential to get it into the market,” said Moreno.

So will it take engineers jobs? “There’s a billboard on the San Jose freeway for a retirement home, it says at least the robots won’t be taking your jobs,” laughed Moreno. “That’s a funny ad. But it’s not about taking anything away, the robot is complimentary and will ultimately make it safer for divers.”