Commercial drop camera springs from research requirements

The SeaSpyder HD, developed by the STR team, on show at Oceanology The SeaSpyder HD, developed by the STR team, on show at Oceanology

It was “interest from the science community” that triggered introducing the SeaSpyder HD drop camera,” Rob Williamson of Subsea Technology & Rentals Ltd (STR) told MJ.

Mr Williamson explained that researchers were trying to identify particular species who are known to be found at extreme depths. Due to difficulty in taking high definitions stills from video footage, the pictures were distorted, resulting in inaccurate imagery for proper study.

In order to support the scientist’s bespoke requirements to prevent difficulties when collecting data and imagery, STR built on its ‘simple to operate, single cable’ rationale and developed a system that offered uninterrupted recording of live video footage at the same time as stills photography. At the heart of this is a very good quality, 18 mega-pixel Canon EOS digital SLR camera”. Even though it’s housed inside a 3,000m-depth proof alloy casing (looking out through a water corrected lens) the camera retains the same flexibility as you’d find if you were holding it: manual focus, shutter speed and aperture are all fully controllable through a processor and Surface Control Unit via intuitive GUI software.

Video footage is provided by a STR SeaSpectrumHD camera which delivers 1080P video via HD-SDI over dedicated high-speed fibreoptic link “and this gives you a continuous, real time feed for immediate investigation- with minimal extra latency”, said Mr Williamson.

Interestingly, in the quest for making this as appealing as possible to a broad variety of people, it’s also possible to gain the video feed from a standard armoured coax cable in depths up to 3,000m.

The SeaSpyder HD also comes complete with high power underwater flash, an array of four high intensity LED lamps, quad scaling lasers, altimeter, depth and heading sensors: more, as other inputs are straightforward to integrate into the (plentiful) serial and ethernet data ports it’s easy to tailor to the job in hand.

The system has wider applications than the purpose it was created for and will probably prove useful for an array of subsea visual inspections and activities. “The scientific community is always asking, ‘can we do this or that’ and it’s forever pushing the boundaries of what is practical or even possible - but it sets us looking for commercial solutions to scientific challenges,” concluded Mr Williamson.

By Stevie Knight

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