Probotic, the Norwegian-based aquaculture technology company, has unveiled the first findings from a pilot test with its innovative Probot underwater drone. The device’s achievements are already revolutionizing the aquaculture sector by automating the inspection and cleaning of fish nets, one of the fish farming industry’s most significant pain points. Automation, the company reported, results in cleaner feed production, improved animal welfare, lower operating costs and reduced climate emissions.
“The idea for this technology came to me after working several years inspecting and cleaning fish pen nets the traditional way,” explained Mikkel Pedersen, CEO and founder of Probotic. “I knew there could be a more efficient way to get the job done, so I got to work on my vision of building a robot that would automate these processes, saving aquaculture companies hours of labor and operational costs,” he added.
Pilot testing of the drone began earlier this summer at the company’s Ballangen Sjofarm facility and, after a month, the mechanical aspects have been verified. The next test is aimed at optimizing the drone’s navigation and detection algorithms.
The Probotic prototype is from Probotic’s seventh prototype series and corresponds to the last prototype of this series before the launch of the production model.
One of the most significant findings reported by Probotic after the first month of testing of the Probot P.7 prototype is that its jet-propulsion system works in real conditions and enables seaweed to flush through the water jet. Of course, this is the current state and the reported findings are expected to improve with further development.
In addition, the drone can operate at 90 cm/s water stream when in cleaning mode, and at 180 cm/s water stream when in inspection mode. Moreover, it has been noted that the submersible docking station keeps the drone secured in place when passing through a storm with a 1 m/s water current. At the same time, the drone’s hydrodynamics allow for smooth movement in water.
As reported by the Norwegian company, after a month of testing there are no dealbreakers. Live videos and sensor data from the drone are available for interested customers. Probotic disclosed that the beta version of the detection algorithm also finds holes.
The current cleaning system is reactive
According to the company’s vision, the current method in fish farming for cleaning fish pen nets is reactive, meaning that they are cleaned when the buildup of algae and debris is so severe that it is necessary to do so. In Probotic’s view, this reactive approach negatively affects the environment, the health of the fish and the operators, as well as being costly and resource-demanding.
The traditional system is manually operated and uses high-pressure water to pump and remove algae and debris. One of the problems is that the biofilm is discharged directly into the net and causes an unsatisfactory environment for the fish.
The importance of having a preventive method
But the Probot underwater drone uses a preventive method that is a more natural and gentle way to clean the nets and hinders biofilm creation on the fish nets entirely. This is made possible by constant cleaning throughout the day, as the drones only pause during battery charging, or during an additional inspection by the operator.
In this regard, Pedersen explained that “the Probot system will be leased for service, which ensures our sustainability goals and gives us control over the product life cycle. It also means that we are responsible for ensuring that the product performs as expected during its lifetime, allowing customers to focus on their other high-value operations.”