Hey everyone! Thanks for being patient with us as we prepare this update! With our big Dubai competition coming up and exciting product development updates taking place, we've had our hands full. But nonetheless, we're happy to finally share our progress with you! Let's get to it:
Let’s talk about the big news first - beta evaluation units hitting the water! As we told you in our previous update, we’ve been working tirelessly to put the finishing touches on our final design, and we’re pretty happy with what we’ve done. To test performance, evaluate stability and buoyancy, as well as test our payload system, we’ve built the Fathom One Evaluation Vehicle (or the F1EV for short). Check it out:
Betas being prepped for their first dive!
The weight on the front and floats on the tail are used to establish drone balance in these early prototypes - don't worry, it'll all be internal come production!
Testing our first beta with a full size GoPro Hero3.
Betas are off and swimming! Note the F1's ability to dive and rise without having to move horizontally - this will be especially important for tight space control.
Although the F1EV doesn’t look as pretty, it allows us to run our system through its paces. More importantly, it allows us to validate important maneuvering abilities that we promised to you early in our campaign. Let’s walk through them:
First, slow-speed control has been a topic brought up time and time again. Being able to control the drone at slow speeds allows for smoother footage, more thorough inspection of areas, as well as allowing the ability to be careful in sensitive areas (coral reefs, shipwrecks, etc.). In this footage we demonstrate how the drone can move slowly and carefully.
We’ve also built out LED “guards” to ensure - although they’re housed behind the same lens - the LEDs don’t cause glare in the camera feed.
No glare means no washed out footage! We can't wait to take these out at night to see how they perform!
For all you DIY’ers out there, we’ve had a lot of interest in releasing the specifications of the F1’s rail and thruster interface systems. By releasing these now, we hope that you’ll have built out amazing attachments and alternate thrusters to make the F1 even better than it already is. Here’s what you need to get started: https://grabcad.com/library/f1-payload-rail-1
We’ve already started planning a host of attachments, but we can’t wait to see what you come up with! If you’d like 3D CAD models of the interfaces, you can find them here: https://grabcad.com/library/f1-thruster-interface-1
Here's a little bit of inspiration!
Throughout this final development process, we knew we wanted to stay true to our promise that we would deliver the world’s most compact underwater drone available. Now that we’ve completed both the buoy and drone designs, we can confidently say we’ve delivered on that promise. Throw it in a backpack, duffle, or hard case, and you'll be off to your next adventure in no time.
We’ve continued to make steady progress on the Fathom application as well. Now that the majority of the primary features have been completed, we’ve been pouring a lot of time into the details of the application. Check out your updated home screen!
A major addition has been the way we’ve been handling telemetry on the pilot screen. Instead of simply throwing a bunch of numbers at you, we’ve designed a much more intuitive system that delivers information in a way that is much easier to understand:
To become a proficient underwater drone pilot, there are a few key features you need to learn in the drone’s user interface. The first (and sometimes most important) is the drone’s compass:
Your drone’s compass will become a crucial tool in navigating the underwater world. By using the compass, you know which way you went out, so you can know which way to return home. You’ll also be able to use it a tool for re-finding spots underwater that were of interest (i.e. turn east at the end of the dock, then head south once you hit the large rock). Because we’ve designed the interface to give you these headings in easy to interpret cardinal directions, you’ll become a proficient navigator in no time!
The next important piece of information to understand is the drone’s pitch. Sometimes when you’re in open water it can be difficult to know whether you’re going up or down when everything is blue! We’ve integrated a simple drone avatar in the top information bar to help guide you:
By giving you your pitch information in this way, you’ll know immediately if you’re diving, rising, or maintaining your depth. Speaking of depth, you’ll be able to monitor your depth carefully using the last important piece of telemetry displayed here:
Third, we’ve incorporated battery indicators to alert you when it’s time to come home, buoy wifi signal strength monitors to notify you when you’re getting out of range, and drone memory monitors that will notify you when video storage is getting low onboard the drone. All of this information will ensure that you have successful dives time and time again.
Another important update is the creation of the Fathom video download portal. This allows you to wirelessly view and download all of your video files directly from the drone on your laptop or desktop computer! To access the portal, simply turn the drone on and enter its IP address in the address bar of your computer’s web browser. You’ll then have access to your files for viewing or downloading.
Finally, we’ve built out a custom sensor calibration sequence that makes re-calibrating your drone exceedingly simple. Sensor calibration will be an important step in making sure your F1’s instrumentation is accurate, and is necessary to do once in awhile! You simply have to move your drone in various directions to allow the onboard sensors to collect the data needed to remain precise:
An on-screen drone avatar steps you through calibration to make it easier than ever to ensure your instrumentation is tuned in!
Now for the "Biggest Challenges" section of our updates. As we've said before, we want to make sure we not only keep you up to date with everything good happening with our development process, but also some of the challenges we run into. Without further ado, here are some of the biggest hurdles we've run into:
The Problem: Getting the drone balanced to enable smooth operation. It's of the utmost importance that the drone sit perfectly level in the water to ensure you can get great footage. When we put the first F1EV in the water, it went completely nose up on us! Obviously that wasn't ideal...
The Solution: After a good amount of tweaking both ballast and floats, we finally obtained perfect level. All that was necessary here was patience and time!
The Problem: Component sourcing! As every hardware startup knows, preparing your supply chain for full production can be a long, arduous process. The components we're using in the betas are easy to obtain in smaller quantities, but once we began to look for larger quantities, we quickly realized we'd have to come up with alternative solutions.
The Solution: Leveraging our company's high caliber network to bring on people that have done it before! Nothing can replace experience, and thankfully Fathom has a broad range of advisors that know their stuff when it comes to finding the right parts, in the right quantities. As we begin to set up for full production, these connections have proved to be invaluable.
The Problem: Nailing our unique drone sealing process. Because the Fathom One doesn't have gaskets like traditional ROVs, we've had to perfect the way the drone is being potted. Various issues began to arise like curing times, material weights, and hull adhesion.
The Solution: Again, patience and time! It took approximately five sample hulls to finally perfect the way we seal up each unit. What we finally created was a way to easily prep each hull to accept the drone's electronics and potting material.
That's it for now! This update is being sent out from the Chicago International airport as we prepare to leave for Dubai, so wish us luck! It also reminds us that none of this would be possible without you, our Fathom community.
We have a lot of things coming in the next few weeks that we can't wait to show you, so stay tuned!
- John, Danny, Chris, and Matt