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Ziphius: The Aquatic Drone

The first app-controlled aquatic drone shoots high-definition video and recognizes objects

by Hans Aschim in Tech on 26 June 2013

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The Ziphius is the first tablet and smartphone app-controlled, above-water, unmanned vehicle. Complete with a 160-degree rotating, high-definition camera and image recognition software, Ziphius is designed for use in all aquatic conditions—from rough water in the open seas to your backyard pool. The friendly looking aquatic gadget recently launched on Kickstarter and we recently had a chance to get a first look at one of their rare prototypes.

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The sleek design of Ziphius calls to mind a James Bond gadget with a sense of humor. With its two-propeller acceleration system humming quietly below the water and multi-colored LED lights as communicators (which also appear on the app), Ziphius lives by the nautical design philosophy that everything onboard must serve a definite purpose. Ziphius's dorsal-fin provides both stability in the water and also serves to extend its WiFi range to around 300 feet. Meanwhile, a low center of mass means Ziphius always rights itself—even in breaking waves. "We had the most fun testing it in the surf near our offices," says Edmundo Nobre, CEO of Portugal-based Azorean, Ziphius's parent company.

The device is much lighter than one expects. An Extended Polystyrene Styrofoam (EPS) removable top piece coupled with a durable plastic moulding keep the craft's weight down. The bright EPS pieces come in a range of colors to suit everyone's taste—there's even one with a drink holder for those lazy days by the pool.

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Ziphius—named for a whale common in the Azores, where the gadget is developed—operates on a sleek and simple app. With a live-feed from the craft's onboard high-definition camera, one of the app joysticks controls the speed and direction of Ziphius while another controls the direction and mode of the camera. Ziphius has the capability to share still photos on the fly via Twitter and Facebook while a higher-definition 1080p video is stored in the craft's onboard eight gigabyte hard-drive. The 160-degree rotating ability of the camera is one of Ziphius's strongest features (in addition to its speed and maneuverability), allowing for a range of angles below the water, at water level and shooting upwards. This especially comes in handy for those looking to film sports such as surfing and sailing without leaving the beach.

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Under the deck, Ziphius is equipped with a Raspberry Pi core along with a few other device-specific circuit boards. Ziphius's computing ability really puts its camera to work. Using the app control, Ziphius can even be trained to recognize objects and follow them—so you can put on your brightest swimsuit and see if you can out-swim it. Though, with a top speed of six miles per hour and a full charge lasting about an hour, we're guessing you won't be leaving Ziphius in your wake. Despite all of the existing features, Ziphius's developers are continually developing new augmented reality games and applications for their innovative creation.

Ziphius may look familiar to ultra gadget nerds; it took home first place in the inaugural Insert Coin: New Challengers design competition in March. Secure the Ziphius with a backing of just $195 through their Kickstarter campaign.

Images courtesy of Ziphius and Manuel Lino

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