The Science of Underwater Drones: How Do They Work?

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Underwater drones are more popular today because of their increasing use. In addition to helping us explore the ocean world, they also help search and rescue and help uncover hidden resources and dangers under the sea. So how do these underwater drones work, we will find out through the following article.

What is an underwater drone?

In 2015 Nicolas Gambini, Founder of Notilo Plus, had the idea to take a typical drone and its operations and make it work similarly but underwater.

Basically, an underwater drone is a miniature submarine with no people inside. Since it is much harder to send radio signals through water than through the air, these drones are not usually operated by remote control. They are fully automated, navigating using onboard computers and sensors.

Underwater drones are specially designed to operate in harsh, low-light environments

Underwater drones are specially designed to operate in harsh, low-light environments

Underwater Drones Technology

All Underwater drones include a built-in sensor, rope, tether management system, flotation pack, a sensor for the light video camera and thruster. Some advanced Underwater drones may have sonars, magnetometers, and instruments that measure water clarity, water temperature, water density, and the speed of sound.

Types of sensors of Underwater drones

Here are some standard sensors used for Underwater drones

Marine sensor

Drones containing marine sensors can perform many tasks, such as navigation, mapping and environmental monitoring.

Acoustic sensor

Acoustic sensors are used for navigation and positioning. These underwater sensors are part of Long Baseline (LBL) and Ultra Short Baseline (USBL) systems. These sensors allow the underwater drone to communicate with an underwater transponder or probe array for precise positioning. Underwater drones can also use Log Doppler Velocity (DVL) sensors that use multiple sound beams to estimate velocity relative to the seafloor.

Other sensors

Underwater drones can carry a variety of sensors to monitor and study the environment. These may include temperature sensors and oxygen sensors.

How do underwater drone work?

The underwater drone works by controlling its buoyancy so that it does not sink. The onboard engines propel the water and allow for remote underwater drone control or using its built-in sensors. Drones are specially designed to operate in harsh, low-light environments; Reliable cameras provide great footage for operators.

Underwater drones are essential equipment for marine and ecological conservation organizations

Underwater drones are essential equipment for marine and ecological conservation organizations

The underwater drone is connected to a control panel where the operator can view a high-resolution screen to see exactly what the drone sees from the mounted camera. The handheld controller allows the operator to direct the drone to the target and control the camera by changing the angle, zoom and pan.

Furthermore, the underwater drone operator can manage the vehicle’s tilt, altitude and orientation to get a clear and accurate picture of the underwater environment in real-time. Pilots can record high-quality videos or switch to photo mode to take pictures for the maintenance team to review.

The underwater drone can also collect samples from the seabed and water samples using two robotic arms that can be easily attached to the vehicle.

Due to the harsh marine environment, port infrastructure can degrade faster. This means that assets need to be inspected regularly, and underwater drones have become one of our primary tools for this process.

Purpose of using underwater drones

Thanks to their compact size and 360° omnidirectional maneuverability, underwater drones are a safe and effective way for the marine and undersea industries, agencies and organizations to assess and monitor their assets and conduct inspections remotely while reducing operating costs and human risk. Here are some examples of real-world applications of underwater drones:


Traditionally, fisheries and other aquaculture businesses have valued their fish farming by human labor. Now, they have been able to use underwater drones to help do this, resulting in a huge saving of time and energy.

Shipping industry

Underwater drones allow shipping companies and shipyards to remotely conduct periodic and efficient vessel assessments. They can also perform detailed hull inspections and monitor shipyard operations and damage assessments.

Offshore energy

Underwater drones are a safe and cost-effective way for offshore energy companies to perform detailed industrial inspections remotely. They can perform maintenance at offshore platforms without endangering engineers.


Utility providers such as power and telecommunications companies can adopt underwater drones to remotely assess and monitor their underwater structures such as submarine pipelines, cables and fibre optic data cables. This helps to quickly detect technical errors and problems with the pipeline system, helping to reduce risks and save time and energy.

Public construction

Underwater drones are ideal for agencies and organizations that maintain water-related public works. They regularly conduct detailed structural and safety checks of waterways and ports. They can also monitor submerged structures such as piers, abutments, dams, and other undersea platforms.

Underwater drones help to scout, locate and identify dangerous underwater threats.

Underwater drones help to scout, locate and identify dangerous underwater threats.

Search and Rescue/Recovery

Underwater drones are ideally suited for a wide range of underwater search and rescue as well as rescue operations. The ability to see far in low-light conditions contributes to the easier identification of subjects and targets.

Defence security

Since you can operate underwater drones from afar, they can scout, locate, and identify dangerous underwater threats that may be present in naval operations areas without having to place assets or people in danger.


Because they are much more affordable than expensive submarines, underwater drones significantly reduce research barriers for educators and students studying marine biology, naval engineering, and marine biology marine domains—other seas. They enable educators to quickly, safely and effectively conduct detailed underwater expeditions to uncover the mysteries of the vast ocean.

Marine Conservation

Thanks to their much smaller footprint and relatively quiet operation, underwater drones are essential for marine and ecological conservation organizations. They facilitate the constant monitoring of the marine environment, home to hundreds of thousands of aquatic species and the diverse habitats supporting them.

With the development of science and technology, the most advanced underwater drones will be launched shortly. They will not only be devices for taking pictures and exploring the ocean anymore, but they can also help transport goods or repair cables and drill pipes under the sea. Let’s hope for a bright future for this scientific development.

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