ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Fire Rescue has added two underwater "Trident" drones to its unmanned aerial system, or UAS, after conducting tests with prototypes earlier this year.
The submersible units, which cost about $1,200 each, are tethered to a 300 foot line and powered by a battery that lasts roughly three hours in salt and fresh water.
Battalion Chief Jason Perrigo told News 6 the prototype’s performance was impressive, he sees the Trident as a life-saving asset in the field.
“It’s provided us a lot of good intelligence, gives us a good visual," he said. “We can see inside a car, outside a car and under a car without putting someone (a diver) in the water.
The UAS specialty program, launched in 2017, started with just one unmanned drone and has since evolved to a fleet of 16 unmanned aerial systems, the new Trident underwater remote vehicles just added last month, are the latest in the fleet.
“It’s just a matter of getting used to it, very easy to learn,” Perrigo said. “It’s no different than playing an actual video game.”
As the drones move underwater, divers are able to view live video from large TV screens as well as the hand control units.
Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Otto Drozd introduced the cutting edge technology to assist first responders and divers.
Drozd said Orange County Fire Rescue has one of the leading drone systems in the country.
“One of the things we try to do with technology is use it as a force multiplier,” Drozd said. “The addition of the underwater drones does just that.”
The underwater drones, developed by California-based OpenROV, are marketed as “professional exploration tools.”
The company’s website presents underwater scenes with Great White Sharks in Guadalupe.
During a demonstration for News 6 this week, the drone’s propellors were tangled in algae as Perrigo tried to guide it through a small lake.
Perrigo said that experience prompted him to contact OpenROV and ask for protective screens around the propellers.
The company is also planning to upgrade the unit’s motor.
Drozd said he plans to add additional units to the fleet including two Matrice 210 aerial drones.
For more information on the underwater drones, go to OpenRov.com.