What is the PowerDolphin
The PowerDolphin is an aquatic drone that enables you to capture imagery above and below water. It’s quite unlike other water drones in as far as it floats on the surface rather than being able to dive into the depths. The camera is also fixed on a pivot enabling it to rise above or below the surface, which is all very neat.
As well as the potential to capture the world under the surface, there are plenty of extras that can be purchased enabling you to map the sea bed, tow things and even carry and dispense bait for fish.
The PowerDolphin boasts a sleek design and comes equipped with a high-quality 4K camera that’s capable of shooting both video and stills.
Aquatic drone / powervision.me/ from £799 / $799 at time of review
Ever wondered what lurked beneath the waves? Well now is the time to find out with the futuristic PowerVision PowerDolphin.
This aquatic drone arrived with me at the end of last year, just as the rain started here in the UK, and as I discovered that also means that the underwater world gets pretty murky.
However, as the rain stops leaving puddles everywhere, a cold snap has hit with temperatures dipping below -4. However, the sun is out, and that makes everything good.
A quick drive to the coast and it’s time to check out the power of the PowerDolphin. I’m quite sure that a part frozen beach isn’t quite what PowerVision had in mind, but the water seems clear if a little on the chilli side.
The location I had in mind is a good half hours hike, and the beach is relatively sheltered with a cafe a short distance away, which is essential, for food and hot drink afterwards.
I’ve been sent the PowerDolphin Standard; this is the base model without the remote. This means that you have to use your mobile phone to connect and control the craft up to a max distance of 330ft (100m).
There are two other models, the PowerDolphin Explorer that arrives with the remote control; I’d recommend this model as the range and control is far better.
Then there’s the PowerDolphin Wizard; this features a bait box for fishing. An interesting addition, but as I’m not a fisher, and I don’t have the bait box I’m not sure how useful this would be.
There are also a host of other features that the primary device has, including a tow hook at the back and an accessories port underneath.
Couple the features with the design and there’s something very futuristic about the PowerDolphin and slightly sinister.
As you’ll inevitably need to carry the PowerDolphin to its launch point, it’s good to see that the size at 530 x 230 x 130mm (21 x 9 x 5-inches) and weight of 2.3kg making it easy to carry. It also comes with its waterproof bag, which is very handy.
Although the PowerDolphin is designed for use in the water, it doesn’t go underwater, unless hit by a large wave. It has a waterproof rating of IPX8 at a depth of 2m for 30 minutes.
The max speed is 10 mph on still water, and with three sailing modes, Cruise (C), Normal (N) and Underwater (U).
In U mode you can get a sailing time of 2.5hours, switch to N or C, and that cuts down to 20mins.
Two props power the craft at the back, and there’s a camera mounted on an ingenious pivot on the front. This needs to be released before powering up and can then tilt the camera up or down when used in U mode.
The camera is the bit that we’re interested in, and this features a large 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor. Fronting this is a large lens with a 132º field-of-view (In the air) with f2/5 fixed aperture to ensure plenty of light hitting the sensor where it’s needed.
The camera can capture both video and stills. Stills are captured at 12mp with an ISO range of between 100-6400. There are a variety of stills modes that enable Single Shot as standard., Burst and interval.
Switching to video and the camera can shoot 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and 720 at 120 or 240fps. The bitrate is pretty average at 60Mbps with all footage captured on a MicroSD card.
The camera itself is mounted on a pivot that you release before powering up if desired; then in U mode, you can tap to tilt the camera up or down. In total, this gives you the ability to tilt the camera underwater to -150° and back up to +70°.
The PowerDolphin has two options for control, mobile or through a controller. The controller will set you back, and an additional £100/$100 but is well worth it.
Using a mobile, you have a range of 100m (330ft) in ideal conditions, whereas the remote is 800m.
Build quality and handling
The PowerDolphin is a strange amphibious craft that enables you to film at the waterline. While other marine drones feature a long wire that connects them to the control unit the Dolphin is completely wireless and utilises either a phone app, iOS and Android compatible or the remote control.
In this review I’m looking at the PowerDolphin and phone app which does limit the range of the drone somewhat.
Taking teh drone out of the packaging and it’s instantly apparent that this is something a little different. The design is sleek and well thought out, with two props on the back and an articulated camera on the front.
As with other marine drones theres a series of weights that need to be used in order to add weight if you’re using the PowerDolphin in salt water, otherwise it’s ready to go out of the box. Or at least once you’ve given it a charge.
When it comes to outward features there’s really very little to it. Simply charge, connect to the app and then pop it in the water and off you go.
In this review I’ve used the app version of the drone and after a short time using the PowerDolphin I can definitely see the benefits of using the remote control. While the app does the job and enables OK control over the craft the range is limited and there were a few moment where I was close to loosing the signal. However, once I had test the range constraints I was able to settle into a more relaxed test.
Through the app you have plenty of options, and any thoughts that the PowerDolphin is a craft that’s able to dive to the depths of the ocean are quickly dispelled. This is a surface craft with a camera that can dip below the waves or above the surface.
The control of the camera is also a little quirky as once raised or lowered it effects the aerodynamics of the PowerDolphin so the camera feature really works best when the camera is in the fixed position.
Otherwise as an imaging drone the PowerDolphin is solid and easy to handle and position.
Before looking at the visual quality of the PowerDolphin it should be pointed out that as an RC marine craft it is exceptionally good fun and easy to control. The 10 mph max speed feels surprisingly fast on water and the battery life is more than long enough to have some real fun as well as getting on with some more serious work.
When it comes to the camera the quality is exceptional and able to adapt the colour and tone captured quickly for above and below the waterline work.
The above water definition, tone and colour is excellent and with plenty of options over the resolution and frame rates it’s easy to adjust the camera to your requirements. During the test I checked out the hull of a friends boat, checked out the integrity of a river bank and a few other small tasks that would usually require a boat or wadders in order to reach the locations.
Reviewing the footage back on shore and the quality was excellent, more than good enough to highlight any issues with the bank structure in one case and to confirm that the hull really should have a repaint very soon.
Using the camera to dip below the waves and you instantly get a very different view of the world, and again the quality is excellent with the small camera able to cope well with the change in colour temperature and the slightly dimmer conditions.
In both the camera above and below water modes it’s best to keep the speed of the craft slow to avoid damage to the camera hinge and the craft as a whole.
Once any serious imaging work has been carried out at a slower pace the PowerDolphin’s camera can be returned to the fixed position and the motors opened up for some watery FPV fun.
Here the PowerDolphin camera acts in the same way as an airborne drone giving you a drones perspective of the world. This is great fun to see on the small screen of your mobile phone, although again to get the full effect the remote control handset is really needed.
The PowerDolphin is a fantastic marine drone, plenty of fun and capable of capturing some great video. A few things to keep in mind however; this drone does not go underwater, it’s a surface drone, you really need the handset and for an addition $100 it’s really an essential, when going at full speed the camera needs to be in the fixed position, not raised or lowered.
Keep these few things in mind and you’ll have incredible amounts of fun with this drone, although at all times there are some features that really stand out. Those features are not aimed at photographers but more those who enjoy fishing.
The PowerDolphin can be equipped with a feed tray and sonar to help fishers locate and attract fish. It’s all quite clever and once you see those features in action the PowerDolphin really starts to make sense.
As a marine imaging drone it’s loads of fun but not that flexible when it comes to the type of footage you want to capture, it’s more for surveying than creative film shots. But, for finshing it’s spot on!