Underwater Drones To Be Used To Monitor Data In Earth’s Waters Amid Climate Change 

The company Aquaai has used its underwater drone technology to monitor water quality, fish health, and more in fresh and saltwater resources throughout California and Norway. Now, it’s hoping to utilize similar technology to take in water data in the Middle East amid the ongoing impacts of climate change on our planet and its vast water supply.

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Climate change is having a vast impact on the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. The fishing industry, urbanization, and pollution are threatening the world’s waters and their ability to sustain wildlife. This is one of the reasons why taking extensive data is integral for our world’s scientists to better understand the health of “increasingly stressed waterways,” according to CNN.

Without that information, “the fight to save these most precious of resources will be ineffective,” said Simeon Pieterkosky, the co-founder of the technology company Aquaai. 

Aquaai now has the goal of using drones that look like fish to collect data from underwater environments. The drones themselves are powered by batteries and are designed to look and move like fish, sporting a body and tail that swish from side to side as they move throughout the water. Many have noticed they resemble a clownfish.

Amy Gunia of CNN wrote about the specific measurements and dimensions of the drone.

“The standard version is about 4 feet long (1.3 meters) and weighs 65 pounds (30 kilograms) and can be equipped with cameras and sensors to measure metrics like oxygen, salinity and pH levels.”

Pieterkosky has a background working with animatronics for horror movies. When it comes to these new drones, he stated that it was integral that they could integrate into natural habitats without disturbing the wildlife. 

So far the technology has been used in California and Norway, operating in both fresh and saltwater environments. 

The technology has been used near dams, in harbors, and fish farms to check water quality and fish health. CEO and co-founder Liane Thompson stated that “this can be inefficient in giant pens, where fish might gather away from the sensors; instead Aquaai’s robots swim alongside the fish, collecting data wherever they go.”

Aquaai also wants to bring the underwater drones to the Middle East, as that area is currently battling water scarcity. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are depleting water from underground reservoirs to help irrigate their farmland. 

Thompson and Pieterkosky are married, and recently re-located to Abu Dhabi after Aquaai was accepted into a “company building program” at Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s tech ecosystem, according to reports. Thompson stated that Aquaai is working on upgrading its underwater drones, and is speaking with multiple government agencies to implement the new technology. 

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“The technology could be used in the region [Middle East] for water management, sustainable aquaculture operations, detecting derelict fishing gear, and monitoring the health of corals.”

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“Across the globe, water resources are typically monitored manually, which is slow, labor-intensive, and may only provide sporadic data … better automation is sorely needed,” Thompson stated.

“[Automation] should play a crucial role in the future of water management by enhancing efficiency, reducing waste, and improving data collection for better decision-making,” said Robert C. Brears, the founder of water security platform Our Future Water, in an email to CNN

Brears is not involved with Aquaai, but said he believes the underwater drone technology they use are “a non-invasive and cost-effective method for real-time data collection.” 

While Aquaai has raised around $1.6 million in funding, they’re reliance on angel investors, family offices, and corporate investors hasn’t been enough to fully implement the technology the way they’d like to. 

“We need capital to commercialize, but there are very few people who are willing to actually support those that are doing frontier technologies in waterways,” Thompson said. 

According to the business database, Dealroom, water tech in general received less than 3% of the $48 billion climate tech funding in 2023. 

“Investors should absolutely wake up. It’s really about a last-ditch effort to really save the thing that actually keeps humanity alive,” Pieterkosky said.