Fra inspeksjon til aksjon - Blueye X3 mini ROV med gripeklo

torsdag 18. november 2021 / Blueye Office

Lanseringen av Blueye X3 mini ROV i juni åpnet opp for uendelige muligheter for integrasjon av eksternt tilbehør som sonarer, manipulatorer, sensorer, kamera, eller lys. I denne artikkelen vil gå i dybden på hvordan og hvorfor vi har valgt å integrere to forskjellige gripeklør med X3.

From inspections to actions

The Blueye underwater drones offer the best and most user-friendly way to quickly and safely get underwater imagery. Our slogan has for a long time been Your eyes below the surface. With the X3, we expand on this capability by adding ways to take action on what you see.

The Blueye X3 with gripper allows you to go from inspections to actions.
With a gripper attached to the X3, you can recover lost objects, attach recovery lines to heavy objects, thread or cut ropes and wires, collect samples from the seabed, place or recover environmental sensors, free a snagged tether, and much more.

Two alternative underwater drone grippers

We have decided to offer two alternative grippers for the Blueye X3; the Reach Alpha two-axis gripper from Blueprint Lab or the Newton gripper from Blue Robotics. The two grippers can perform many of the same core tasks but have some essential differences in functionality and price point.

Newton Reach Alpha
Neutrally buoyant
Integrated with Blueye App
Two-axis (rotation)
Fine control over open and close speed
Large selection of end-effectors
Build quality Good Premium
Price point

 Please get in touch for a quote and detailed price information.

The Newton ROV gripper

The Newton gripper from Blue Robotics is our entry-level gripper for the X3. The gripper jaws can open to grab objects up to 6.2 cm in diameter with a grip force of up to 124 N. The gripper is controlled using a PWM signal, and it opens or close in about 1.6 seconds. You can mount the gripper with the claws in a vertical or horizontal orientation.

The Reach Alpha two-axis ROV gripper

The Reach Alpha two-axis gripper is our premium gripper option for the X3. The most apparent difference to the Newton gripper is that you can rotate the gripper 360 degrees to better position the jaws any way you want. It can grab objects up to 8.0 cm in diameters using the standard jaws. The Reach Alpha is a smart gripper with onboard electronics receiving control signals over RS232 for commands such as the desired gripper position or velocity for rotating, opening, or closing the gripper.

The smart gripper functionality allows for more advanced control than with the Newton gripper. We can use the trigger buttons on the game controller to get fine control over the speed of the gripper. If you press a trigger all the way in, it will operate at full speed. If you only press the trigger a little bit, the gripper will open, close, or rotate at a slower rate.

Blueprint Lab offers a comprehensive selection of end-user replaceable end-effector tools for the Reach Alpha gripper allowing for mission-specific tooling.

Standard Jaws
Standard Jaws
Tough and reliable jaws for grabbing applications with a max opening of 80 mm. Serrated inner for secure grip.
Rope Cutter
Rope Cutter
A capable rope cutter for severing tangled lines and recovery operations. Cutting diameter of 17 mm with replaceable blade insert.
Soft Jaws
Soft Jaws
A bespoke soft jaw design to enable delicate retrieval and handling. This option is ideal for marine biologists looking to handle marine organisms, shells, and delicate coral.
Special Recovery Jaws
Special Recovery Jaws
A tough end-effector tool specifically designed for Search and Rescue operations in the defense and civil services sector. The teeth design ensures that objects do not slip out of the gripper, increasing chances of mission success.
Quad Jaws
Quad Jaws
Four interlocking prongs provide additional stability. Increased grabbing surface area with an opening of 90 mm and an optional blade holder.
Parallel Jaws
Parallel Jaws
A pair of flat plates closing in parallel, providing predictable grip location. Suitable for manipulation tasks requiring consistency such as valve actuation. Length 70 mm, max opening 50 mm with 27 x 50 mm jaw plates.
A Blueye X3 with the Rope Cutter end-effector mounted.

Example use cases

Attaching a gripper to an X3 allows you to go from making visual inspections to taking action and interacting with the underwater environment. Many use cases can be solved using a Newton or Reach Alpha gripper.

Recover lost items

The perhaps most obvious use case is to pick up lost items. Recovering lost objects can be a mere convenience in some situations, while it can be a critical task in others. For fish farmers losing a knife or some other tool into the fish pen can pose a significant risk for the net getting damaged and fish escaping. Without a mini ROV such as the Blueye X3, the fish farmers will have to rely on scuba divers to recover the lost objects, which is costly and takes time.

Recovering a lost knife from the seabed.
Recovering a lost aerial drone. The drone drowned, but we managed to recover the footage.

Surface retrieval of heavy objects

The Blueye X3 has limited lifting capacity on its own. However, it can be of great assistance when retrieving heavy objects from the seabed. Using a gripper, you can attach ropes to heavy things such as lost moorings, fishing gear, disposed of items and rubbish, anchors, or similar.

Video from the recovery of a lost anchor by threading a rope using the X3 and pulling it up from the surface.

Cutting ropes

The Rope Cutter end-effector can be attached to the Reach Alpha to cut ropes or tangled lines of a diameter of up to 17 mm. The blades on the rope cutter are easy to replace when they wear out.

Cutting a tangled rope to free an instrument.

Collecting samples

Researchers, students, or organizations conducting environmental research can collect samples from the seabed using either the Newton or the Reach Alpha gripper. On the Reach Alpha, you can add the Soft Jaws. This option is ideal for marine biologists looking to handle marine organisms, shells, and delicate coral.

Collecting a scallop (Pecten maximus) in the ocean outside Hitra, Norway.

Blueye X3 Integration

Mechanical integration

Both grippers attach to the X3 using a new mounting adapter at the bottom of the drone. If you purchase a gripper together with your X3, the Blueye team will install the adapter on your drone. It will also be possible to attach a gripper to an X3 yourself at a later stage.

The black ring around the light canister is the mounting adapter used by both the Newton and Reach Alpha grippers.
The gripper is attached with a single bolt at the bottom of the drone.

Both grippers come equipped with custom buoyancy elements that make them natural in the water to ensure the grippers have a minimum adverse effect on the maneuverability and behavior of the ROV in the water.

The Reach Alpha gripper has a user detachable connector on the gripper side, making it possible to quickly detach the gripper from the drone without removing the connector from the drone side. When not using the Reach Alpha gripper on your X3, the gripper connector is protected by a blind plug.

The Reach Alpha gripper with custom Blueye boyancy.

Blueye Smart Connector

At Blueye, our approach to product development has always been to put user-friendliness first. We believe that underwater technology should be as approachable and easy to use as possible, similar to what we have come to expect from the mobile devices, computers, and devices we use every day at the surface.

Since the beginning, we have used custom connectors on thrusters, pressure sensors, tethers, and charging connectors. On the X3, we took our connector design one step further and created what we call the Blueye Smart Connector.

Close up of Guest Port 1 on a Blueye X3 mini ROV.
Close up of the Blueye Blind Plug used to seal the guest port when no peripheral is connected. The app will warn you if a guest port is missing a connector.

We have a small memory chip on the circuit board containing metadata about the peripheral, such as device id, depth rating, and serial numbers. The metadata allows the Blunux operating system to automatically detect which equipment is connected. The Blunux operating system will automatically start the different software modules to support a particular peripheral based on the connector information. The Blueye App will automatically enable or disable functionality based on the connected equipment.

You can view information about connected devices, including the Blueye Blind Plugs, in the Blueye App.

Blueye App integration

Through the Blueye Smart Connector, the Blunux operating system and the Blueye App will detect if a Reach Alpha or Newton gripper is attached to the drone. Both grippers behave similarly and use the Left trigger button to close and the Right trigger button to open the grip. These buttons are normally used for boost or slow modes when operating the drone, but we decided that gripper control had priority over boosting. These are also the only analog inputs on the controller, allowing us to take advantage of the speed control on the Reach Alpha gripper. If you push the trigger all the way in, it closes or opens fast, while if you push it half the way, it will move at half the speed. To rotate the gripper, you use the right bumper and the triggers.

You open and close the gripper using the trigger buttons on the controller.

If you use an iOS device and connect an Xbox Elite controller, you can use the new paddle buttons to rotate the gripper, allowing you to open and turn simultaneously.

Summary

Attaching a gripper to the Blueye X3 mini ROV allows you to go from making visual inspections to taking action and interacting with the underwater environment. With two alternatives, the entry-level Newton gripper and the more advanced Reach Alpha gripper, we are confident we can find a solution that meets your functional requirements and budget. Please get in touch if you have any questions or wish to learn more about how the Blueye X3 can help your organization with underwater work.

Digitalt event 30. nov: Gjør mer med gripper på Blueye X3

Delta på vårt digitale event hvor vi viser frem hvordan en gripper integreres, styres og kan brukes med Blueye X3.

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