Hands on: PowerVision PowerRay underwater drone

February 10th, 2018 | by Wilson Wong
Hands on: PowerVision PowerRay underwater drone

PHOTO: Hand0ut

Aerial drones are a dime and a dozen these days and provide a fun way to take in the sights from a different (higher) perspective.

PowerVision’s PowerRay underwater drone, launched in Singapore this week, now promises to let you take underwater photos and videos without even getting wet. 

How the PowerRay works in the water is similar to an aerial drone – via a remote controller and a smartphone’s  screen.

You just have to fire up the PowerVision’s Vision+ app in the smartphone and the remote controller. The remote controller lets you move the underwater drone that is tethered to a base station.

The use of wires in the whole setup does complicate matters as it would require the user to plan the drone’s route properly. You certainly want to avoid having the wire tangled up or caught by the rocks or reef.

Depending on the package you are buying, the PowerRay comes with 50m or 70m cables, long enough to explore quite a huge area.

There are three propellers. Two at the stern to provide thrust and steering and one in the middle to help the drone to dive or go to the surface. There are no propellers to push it to the sides though. PHOTO: Hand0ut

Because of its neutral buoyancy, the drone will ‘hover’ in the water and does not require additional input from the controller just to stay still in mid-water.

That’s great for still photography and video capture, provided that there’s no water current to push the drone around.

The drone can slice through water at a top speed of 1.5 meters per sec and dive up to 30m or around 100ft, so following recreational divers or fishes through the coral reef is not a problem.

Because water inhibits wireless transmission, the signals from the remote controller is sent to a base station that is hooked to the drone via a wire. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The base station connects directly to the drone with the wire and links with the remote controller wirelessly. VR goggles can be connected for an immersive experience. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The PowerRay is equipped with a 4K 95-degree wide-angle underwater camera. However, you get only 1080p for resolution if you want to transmit the underwater videos in real time.

4K footage can be recorded at 30fps using the underwater camera’s 12 megapixels sensor. 

A fast-burst-shot mode lets you fire five shots at a go, so you can capture a fast moving subject in the water. The 6,400mAh battery in the drone can last as much as 4 hours in still waters at low speed, according to the manufacturer.

A 12-megapixel camera with two LED lamps at the sides. For night diving shots perhaps? PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The drone in action in a pool during a Singapore launch. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

As you’d expect, these drones do not come cheap. The PowerRay Explorer package is priced at S$2,599 and the PowerRay Wizard package will set you back by S$3,599.

The main difference between the two is the inclusion of a pair of VR goggles made with Zeiss lens and the storage capacity (32GB versus 64GB).

On the more expensive option, you also get the PowerSeeker, a small flotation device that can detect underwater terrain and fish. It helps an angler place baits at the right locations.  

The price of the drone and the lack of clarity in Singapore waters could make the PowerRay a tough sell in the local market.

Then again, Singapore’s position as a hub for the region means we are in the middle of a vast area of beautiful coral reefs in Indonesia, East Malaysia and the Philippines, which give us ample opportunities to use the PowerRay.

Besides, the drone is not just limited to play but can be utilised by commercial entities such as offshore fisheries and ship builders for visual inspection.

The drone in action. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

The media getting a hang of the underwater drone. PHOTO: Wilson Wong

One thing I am concerned with is the size and weight of the drone. The set comes with a container that is like its own cabin luggage!

There’s a reason, though. As water is denser than air and strong currents could affect performance in open water, a heavier and more powerful drone is necessary to ensure it performs well.

Will we get an underwater drone in water the size of a DJI Spark? Hopefully, as technology matures, we can see more such options.

Stay tuned for a review of the PowerRay soon.



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