A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
New Atlas: "We've featured a fair number of underwater drones over the past few years, and they're pretty much all remotely-controlled by their shore-based users. Denmark's Supportive Robotics, however, is developing one that's a bit different. Known as Allec, it can be piloted via remote control, but it can also perform its own autonomous missions."
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Most drones we know are controlled by their owners from a relatively safe surrounding. An underwater drone would be remote controlled by users from the shore or from a ship/vessel on the water. However, Allec, the new submarine drone being developed by Supportive Robotics, Denmark is rather unique. Allec can be remote controlled, but can also perform autonomous missions.
While this looks fun for now, the uses of Allec could be limitless in the real world, given its inherent flexibility.
Read the full article here:
If you are like us, you simply can't help looking at every pool of water you pass by, wondering what's below.
Allec is all about allowing you to explore lakes, ponds, the sea, water tanks, your aquarium... Allec does it all.
What makes Allec special is that he is a real robot, allowing him to do various missions on his own. You just need to tell him what to do and then sent him on the job.
Need to check an lake before swimming or fishing? Just want to see the sights below? Allec is the partner to bring along.
And no worries, you can control him directly through a wire and wireless too.
What really excites us about Allec is that he allows us to explore the water in the way WE want, intensively wire controlling him one day, laid back letting him do the exploring on another day, while we relax above water, following us on a swim or dive on yet another day.
Here in Denmark its cold in the winter and going diving even with the proper gear is a chilly experience. Allec allows us to still explore, while being securily placed above water with a hot cup of cocao.
Autonomous, App or PC controller
Allec is a true robot, so he can sail completely on his own:
He can be controlled by the app interface (here the Android proto version)
And the PC user interface:
Camera and storage
One of the main features of Allec is his camera. A nice 1080p camera.
When sailing without wires Allec will store everything he sees on an internal storage flash card. He has 32 Gb available.
On the other hand, if sailing wired, connected to the Wifi bouy, Allec will stream the video directly to the sailing app/pc.
Allowing you to se what happens is of course very important, but since Allec can travel completely on his own, he needs the camera to see too.
Allec does not just record the world around him, he actually sees it and can categorize the sights into categories.
This is probably one of the most exciting parts of Allec, since it allows him both to avoid obstacles and also to actively search for things.
To be able to do this, Allec's brain contain his own version of computer vision.
Allec is able to categorize what he sees into 10 categories, rating the likeliness of what he saw with at 0 to 100 % likeliness, for each category.
The categories as of now are:
Sea weed, Wreck, Diver, Fish, Jellyfish, Open water, Swimmer, Allec, Fishing net, Sea bed. And yes, you can actually teach him other categories.
He will pass that information on to the AI system, that can then act in an appropriate manner.
Below a short example of sailing with our Vision test interface enabled. Notice the recognition of Sea bed and to a lesser degree Sea weed.
Allec comes equipped with two Power LED lights.
They can be controlled through the wire, with an on/off switch.
When sailing on his own Allec can control them too. To preserve power he will only switch them on if the light level falls below a certain thresshold.
Missions and AI Programming
A real robot can of course be programmed. For those who just want to start exploring, not caring about how to program, a number of predefined missions are available.
A mission is an overall task you can assign Allec, like scounting an area, leading you to the coordinates of a shipwreck, looking for the nearest fish.
A mission can be started directly by pressing Allec's mission selector eye, but you of course can also start him through the app or pc user interface.
Allec on a mission
Now for those who really want to in depth program Allec a full AI programming interface and language is available. It's pretty much a simpified C version, with submarine robot specific commands added.
In the AI programming language you can create missions. Yes, missions are in fact AI programs, so you can create new ones or change the predefined missions.
A very nice feature of Allec is his Discovery chart. It’s a graphical overview of what Allec experienced during his trip under water and will display the route sailed and the objects Allec recognized during the dive on an area map.
Likewise, if you bring Allec along on your underwater diving or snorkeling trip, he will also record and map everything. He can then create a “map” of objects spotted and the route taken, creating a beautiful memory to save or share with your friends.
Underwater-enthusiasts can share and compare different areas for diving and snorkeling, and by doing so, help other divers find the beautiful sceneries they have discovered.
It can also be used to show friend and family, the beautiful landscapes and fish you have visited, and give them a true experience of the underwater worlds.
Wonder how Allec navigate below the waves?
The first thing you need to know when considering submarine navigation is that radio waves really don't like to travel below water. The means that when sailing below using GPS for navigation is not possible.
We have to fall back to the good old days, where navigation was done using a approximation techique based on reading the ship's compas, measuring the speed traveled and noting how much time went by on each direction, speed pair. Then use the speed - direction for a certain time periode to calculate how far the ship has travelled. Use the new position as start point for the next speed - drection, time set and so on. This technique is called Dead Reckoning.
So how does Allec obtain the needed readings?
He actually uses a compas, but more than that, he uses a combined acceleratiometer, magnetometer (a 3d compas) and gyroscope. Measurements from these three can be combined to get both yaw, roll and pitch angles or converted into his direction. This combination gives a very good approcimation of the actualy direction travelled.
Next then is depth. The good thing about depth is that it can be measured directly using a pressure sensor.
Off then to figuring out speed. Allec uses a flow meter to figure out how much water is being pushed by him or more precisely, how much water is being pushed through the flow meter. This measurement can be used to get a good guess of the speed travelled. For those who don't know, a flow meter is basically a very small propeller that rotates several thousand times for each liter that passes by it. To measure flow and thereby speed, the number of rotations is simply measured.
Allec does have a few more tricks in regards to speed up his fin sleeve. But a man is allowed a few secrets isn't he.
Is Dead Reckoning perfect? Not always, but it is the best you can reasonable get with no absolute fix points to use for positioning.
The underwater world is a big place and sometimes it is more fun or efficient to bring friends.
Allec can work together with other Allecs to solve missions.
Say you want to quickly find places with wrecks or every fish you can possibly spot. Simply put several Allecs on the task.
The basic pack functionality is through missions where you can tell how many friends are going to help and also assign a number to each Allec. Based on this the mission can then divide the work. The information is available in the AI programming too, so you can create pack functionality yourself too.
While swimming around Allec is able to spot other Allecs, which can be used in the AI programming, allowing you to create more advanced pack functionality.
Magnetically Coupled Propellers
How does magnetically coupled propellers work and why is that a big deal?
One of the very first thoughts in the Allec project was that we wanted to make a submarine that would require as little maintenance as possible, meaning that things like cleaning the drive shaft or greasing it, was really not something we wanted to do.
So to avoid that task, we decided to totally avoid the drive shaft, with the added bonus that with no drive shaft opening, the water would have no way into the motor.
Fins / Mounting Points
Allec is very proud of his fins and they do stabilize him a when swimming fast.
To be able to carry external equipment, that cannot fit within the open hull, the fins can be removed, making available two mounting points.
Examples could be IR camera, rear mounted camera, extra LED lights...
Below are some fun examples of what they also might be used for.:
Water Bottle holders for your diving trip? Maybe even program Allec to go home to fetch more?
Robotic grabbers anyone (They are just for show, for now)?
Electronic Expansion Slot
Want Allec to control a robotic arm, extra external lights, Reverse mounted camera, measure temperature, get GPS coordinates (when above water), release depth charges...?
What you want is the Electronic Expansion Slot.
The Electronic Expansion Slot is Allec's way of being able to adapt to your needs.
It's basically an adapter that presents various electronic interfaces, that allows the equipment to transfer data to Allec or receive commands from Allec.
New items probably require very specific interfacing, so to support this, Allec's AI programming language will be expanded with new commands, directed at controlling whatever new item is being enabled. So yes, you can modify Missions (or write new) to include control of the new items.
For those who want's to know the highly technical details, the hardware interfaces made available are:
One I2C, One RS485 serial, One SPI, One ADC (Analog to digital converter) and a few digital ports (input/output)
A WIFI buoy can give a Underwater Drone/ROV a bit of extra freedom and since Allec can function as one, he has one too. The buoy creates a standard 100 feet range network.
To keep things simple the WIFI bouy uses the same battery packs that Allec himself uses. In this way you only have to bother with one charger. Also, a WIFI router actually uses quite a bit of power, so a good sized battery pack will ensure you don't run out of power.
The WIFI Buoy really has three uses:
One is the classical, allowing you to control Allec directly.
The second is to be a passive rider, watching the scenery, while Allec does the driving. You can take over if you want to at any time.
The third is for those who don't feel like carrying 100 feet cable on their trips, but still want to program Allec before letting him explore. They will bring along the WIFI buoy and the 1 foot cable, so they are still able to instruct him what to do, but won't have to carry a long cable. The Easy Travel solution :)
So Allec comes equipped with batteries that allows him to sail for 90+ minutes. Why bother with having the batteries external and exchangeable?
Well, don't you all know the feeling, when playing around with a flying drone, helicopter, plane: The flying is just getting fun and then the batteries run out. A underwater ROV usually runs longer than a plane on the batteries, but still, why spoil a fun moment, when you can just swap the batteries and go on having fun.
The design of Allec
Designing Allec we wanted to achieve several things:
First of course we wanted a functional and easy to use robotic submarine
It was a requirement that Allec should be easy to carry
At the same time we wanted something not just functional, but something enjoyable to look at, something you could bring to the beach receiving a "woauw" instead of headshakes.
It was also important for us that Allec would fit into his element.
Allec should be able to carry external equipment, but not at the sacrifice of good looks
A further requirement was that Allec should be very streamlined, to reduce drag but equally importantly, to make him stick as little as possible in any sea weed he might miss seeing.
Much of the functionalty and ease of use has already been talked about, so no more about that here.
So then onto the looks of Allec.
A thing that came up early in our brainstorming sessions was that since Allec would be "living" in the waters, it would be natural if he had a shape like something from the sea. That lead to quite a lot of design sketches based on fishes and other sea animals. We ended up with a body shape much inspired by a Whale Shark, though much smaller :)
That decided the shape of the hull was much given.
To keep with the shape, the motor pods had to be inside the hull. This then presented the problem of getting enough water to the propellers, to generate proper trust. The aft water intakes and the side "gill" slots was the result of that.
The "gill" slots was a nice decision, since it made it clear how to place the exchangeable battery packs and any weights to level out boyancy too.
Another feature of the "gill" slots is allow placement of smaller external equipment inside Allec. Possible linked to the External Electronic Slot, that is located inside Allec.
A fish has eyes, right? So does Allec. Instead of just making them cosmetically we gave them functionality too. One is the main power on/off switch, while the other is mission selector.
The top fin (Dorsal) was another decision made base on wanting to keep with the Whale Shark shape, while at the same time solving a technical problem. The functional reason for the top fin is to have a hole hiding the wire/tether connector. We initially hoped to be able to use a gold coated standard RJ45 connector, without any insulation. It works very nice in fresh water, but in salty water too much stray electrical currents would happen, to degrade the wire signals. So instead of just being able to Click the wire onto Allec, an insulated connector that needs to be clicked on and then turned, is the result.
Regarding the side fin (Pelvic), a fish really needs to have fins, was our though. They simply makes him look complete. Since we wanted Allec to be easy to transport in a backpack, they needed to be removable.
This then led to having two holes available. Why not use them for mounting external equipment? Either mounted through a boom like carrying thingie (see robotics grabbers and beverage holders) or using a small net to hook up in the holes. This was very much in line with our design wish of making sure that Allec would look good: We could give the option of mounting bigger external equipment, while not having to have permanent rails externally.
Another effect of placing the motors inside the hull, while keeping Allec small, is that one big lifting body is not possible, it needed to be divided into a front and a aft lifting body. This does increase the complexity of the Plastic Injection Forms, but we really didn't want to compromise on the perfect mix og functionality and design, that is Allec. Hope you agree :)
The colors of Allec went through a lot of iterations too. We ended up going with the advice of a biologist asked, using a fish colored grey/silver skin, to make Allec seem like a natural part of his habitate. Based on dives with fishes coming to greet Allec, it seems like the choice was very good (see an example in the Prototype Gallery). And he looks nice too. The Anodized Red (Iron Man) Allec would though have been sooo cool :D
For the hull and other parts of Allec we needed a very strong and water resistant material, with a not too high density.
The obvious choice for us was Plastic, though we did consider Aluminium too. Aluminium is too heavy though.
Then Plastic was the choice. But plastic is really a very broad definition of a lot of materials with very different properties. Researching a lot of plastics for just the right properties, Yield strength, Young's modulus, water absorbance and density some of the primary, we spend quite some time looking for the right kind of plastic.
Let's just say that our prototype supplier and working partner came totally thorugh for us, introducting us for an enhanced ABS plastic that simply blows the charts in regards to all of our needs (our charts at least :) )
Finishing off the tech and design talks, here then an animated view of most parts described above.
1080/720p video camera (OV5640) .Maximum possible resolution for the camera is 2592 x 1944.
Streams directly to app via the WIFI buoy or records on internal 32 Gb SD Flash.
1.5+ hours of standard sailing. 5 hours holding position filming.
Designed to comfortable handle 50 meters depth
Speed about 1.5 knot.
Works alone, on iOS, Android or PC.
L: 33 cm, H: 13 cm, W: 22 cm
2.3 kg, with battery packs mounted.
In the Box
Allec the Submarine Robot
Three battery packs. Two for Allec, one for the W-Fi buoy
30 m Tether Cable
30 cm Easy Travel Cable
All this tech talk really makes you wan't to see some scenic Allec moments, right? Here you go then.
The Visual fishfinder - The big catch for those who know:
There be treasure:
The current state
The current state of Allec is a functional prototype.
We have a robot that can travel the waters solo or being guided by wire, filming and documenting while he go.
We have working app and pc prototypes, that while functional certainly can use "a bit of polish". We have started rewriting them already.
Allec's computer vision is based on showing him large numbers of pictures. The computer vision improves with every dive, due to them giving os even more pictures to train on. To balance the training, we do need pictures from non danish waters too.
Bascially we are ready to take the next big and final step towards a real product: Getting Allec setup for real production.
The work for turning the 3D printed CAD models into Plastic Injection Moulding friendly has been done. We though will be using some time to verify each of the forms (there are 13), before actually pressing the production button. Big changes cannot be made to moulds when created and since they are pretty expensive, the extra verification is critical.
Preparation for Print Board construction is very far due to the fact that the print boards has been done the "real" professional way since version 1. So this is mostly just another iteration.
Then we have mechanical assembly, where we have shared descriptions and assembly animation videos with our supplier. To be quite frank, some things requiring corrections in the way to assemble, just might show up.
Same goes for testing. The tests are described, but need for improvements might surface.
Summed up, the preparations for physical production has been done, but we WILL take our time to verify every step before starting up. Improvements stil can and probably will be made, but we will be very careful not to introduce errors.
In regards to pc and app and Allec firmware, what remains is all about polish, performance improvements and better usability.
Why we need your help
Our biggest funding challenge by far is the costs of the Plastic Injection Moulding Forms. Getting started with those really requires some cash and this is where most of our startup cost is placed. We really need your help for getting the forms.
The other equally important reason for asking your help is about actually delivering the best possible product. We have used a LOT of time thinking up, designing and creating Allec in prototype, but now we very much would like your input in how you like him and what might be improved.
By pledging you tell us that Allec MUST be created and then following up by giving us your feedback you tell us how he really SHOULD be created.
Shipping - VAT and Custom fees
A few words about how we handle VAT and custom fees.
Being a EU based company we are by law required to charge VAT for european customers and since we expect to be using a fullfillment company, we are in EU going to handle the customs fees too.
For the rest of the world we must not charge VAT, meaning that any VAT that might apply in your country will be due at delivery. Same goes for Customs fees.
Allec resting after some exploration and a lot of information :)
Every Startup needs a group of trusted friends to help keep the spirit up, shoot down the really crazy ideas, help with smaller and bigger things. We have been lucky to have a lot of support. :)
Two persons deserve special mention. A lot of thanks to both of them:
Rune the son of Thomas has been a very frequent diving partner during tests and filming.
Jeroen has been helping right from the start and is actually the creator of the hull for version 1.
JOY – In our way of doing business, we would like to spread out happiness and positivity by producing products for your daily life, leisure time and make your life more joyful.
We always seek to create and sustain joy, in all of our communication, in order to make your day better.
SOCIAL – Our robots and company approach is socially centered about sharing of ideas and exchanging your unforgettable experiences. We create solutions that interact with you and your surroundings, and we support your goals and explorations.
HELPING – Our purpose is to be beneficial and help humanity to make their lives uncomplicated. To produce robots that will be supporting you in your everyday chores, giving you more time to enjoy life, socialize and explore. We believe that we are stronger when we are helping each other, and therefore our products seek to help you, as we do.
PIONEER – We believe that being first requires innovation, courage and support, we seek to provide products and services that not only compete but reinvents the way we live. We are not afraid to stand out and think differently.
PERSONAL – Our business approach is to put you personally in center. We would like to encourage you to share your lifetime moments with us, by developing products with personalities that tend to your needs, as we will.
INNOVATIVE – We are open-minded and constantly aiming to think differently, creating innovative solutions by combining different types of people and genders.
Being original is in our company’s culture.
EXPLORATIVE – We would like to encourage you to use our products for exploring unvisited places that are not easily available for mere mortals.
CONVENIENCE – We seek to indulge costumer convenience in all possible ways, in communications, product functionality, usability, and bring simplicity to your life.
The features repeated
If you made it this far you really deserve seeing the features again in an brief version. :)
Risks and challenges
Taking a product from prototype to production is always a challenge.
Our approach is to minimize risk by letting a real pro company do the production in a turn key fashion.
Through all of the prototyping we have been working with a China based company that specializes in helping prototypers, both during the prototype phase and also when taking the prototype to real production.
They will be handling all the production tasks, from sourcing, PCB creation and assembly, flashing of firmware, injection mould plastic part production, mechanical assembly, final testing and packing.
The final part then is delivery. Allec is going to be produced in China, so world wide shipping is going to be required. Since we currently don't know how many submarines are going to be delivered in the various parts of the world, the delivery plans might change, depending on numbers. Here anyway are our plans:
Our company is located in Europe, so here we need to handle VAT and customs in any case. We will here rely on using a fullfilment company. The most likely candidate right now is Amazon.
The rest of the world will most likely receive the shipments directly from China. Though larger numbers will make fullfilment company a good choice here too.
You can say that our plans are basically that we will let those who know, do what they are good at, to ensure that we can deliver problem free to you, our contributors from Kickstarter.
We want to make sure our products and brand will be know for its complete joy and convenience from order to use of product :-)