Drones aim to open undersea exploration for all

  • 07/11/2016
Drones aim to open undersea exploration for all

We've all seen the amazing pictures drones can capture from the sky, but now they're being used to show us what lies beneath.

New underwater drones are set to revolutionise underwater exploration for everyday people.

One is called Trident and one of its creators, Eric Stackpole, hopes it allows anyone to become an explorer.

"My hope is that we can get 10,000 more eyes in the water, looking at parts of the world that no one has seen before," he says.

"In the past, exploration has always been something you see someone else do. It's always been the famous explorers who do their expedition and come back and show you what they found."

Undersea exploration began with Jacque Cousteau in the 1940s; then, in 2013, Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron designed and built a one-man submarine to explore the deepest part of the pacific, nearly 11km down.

Trident can only dive about the length of a football field, but that's deep enough to explore countless shipwrecks.

"They've been used to find ancient Mayan pottery in underwater caves in Mexico. They've been used in Antarctica to explore under the ice," Mr Stackpole says.

"Some took them to Mount Everest... and explored a lake that's one of the highest altitude lakes in the world."

Last summer, Mr Stackpole sent his drone into Lake Tahoe in the US, where they found the remains of a steamer ship known as the 'Queen of the Lake'.

"And we actually were able to land on the sink in this bathroom built in the 1800s, on this shipwreck that had not been seen for 70 years. And that's just awesome," he says.

CBS News joined Mr Stackpole's team on a test run of the new model in Monterey Bay on California's central coast.

They travelled over a place called the Metridium Fields - which are large white sea anemones found about 18m down.

While using her drone in 2014, diver Laura James noticed sick and dying sea stars near her home in Seattle. She began documenting the devastation, which scientists believe is tied to climate change.

Trident's creators hope this is just the beginning of many underwater adventures.

"When I look at the water, I see not just the surface, but the murky deep below. And I want to know more about it," Mr Stackpole says.

CBS News