Increasingly, drones and underwater robots (ROVs) are being used to inspect wind farms at sea, for example. Drones lend themselves perfectly to checking the mast and wicks for irregularities, while the foundation can be inspected with ROVs. Japanese drone developer ProDrone has now developed a drone that can carry out inspections both in the air and underwater.

Sea-Air Integrated Drone

The Sea-Air Integrated Drone, as the aircraft is called, actually consists of two remote-controlled (aerial) vessels. Flying through the air, the ROV is part of the drone’s payload, where the camera can take aerial shots, just like a regular drone. Once landed on the surface of the water, the ROV disconnects from the drone and underwater shots can be taken.

The drone was developed by ProDrone, in collaboration with Japanese telecom operator KDDI and developer of underwater robots QYSEA Technology. There was no less than six years spent in the development of the drone. The result is the first commercially available drone that can be used both in the air and underwater.

Signal transmission

For signal transmission, the ROV — an adapted version of the Fifish V6 Plus — is connected to the drone by cable. It can be rolled out to a depth of 150 meters. The operator is sent the image wirelessly via the drone. For shooting, the ROV features a 12-megapixel 4K UHD camera with a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor from Sony.

Such an inspection drone has the advantage that maritime infrastructure can be inspected at once. It is no longer necessary to engage individual teams for the build-up above water and the foundations underwater. In addition, the ROV can start a dive at any desired location on the water surface, even at some distance from the operator.


“In offshore wind energy, the drone can be used to carry out complex inspections and maintenance work on the frames and foundations to greatly reduce human risks,” said a QYSEA spokesperson. “In the aquaculture sector, the drone can be used to monitor crops, and to carry out maintenance and repair work using the ROV’s many additional tools. Other maritime applications include search and salvage operations, hull inspections and various other subsea activities.”