It’s official. Time flies.
It’s amazing to think that it’s already been three months since we closed the Kickstarter campaign and kicked off the final development of the Fathom One! In that time we’ve already seen our app take shape, a total revamp of the drone’s physical design, and a ton of amazing use cases for our technology develop. The best part is, we’re only getting started.
Let’s jump in!
First things first, let’s talk about where we’re at with the drone redesign. Since our last update, we’ve been spending a lot of time honing in design details and fleshing out our assembly process. Now for the exciting part – seeing the F1 take shape. Check out our updated F1 master prints:
We’re incredibly excited about how this final design iteration is shaping up – it looks even better than the renderings so far! We’re giving the green light to our urethane mold manufacturer to begin pumping out beta parts so that we can begin assembling our beta units to be shipped out by the end of January.
We’ve also been running component-level testing of our redesigned parts, most notably, the thrust modules. While we knew the new designs would offer an unparalleled amount of customization potential, we wanted to ensure we weren’t compromising performance. Come to find out, we significantly enhanced thruster performance through our redesign. After initial testing, we determined we can produce over a kilogram (or 2.2 lbs) of thrust per thruster. You can see our test setup here:
Aside from all the progress on the plastic part design of the drone itself, we've also been pouring a lot of time into the design and assembly of the buoy. We've decided to run with an external spool design that will easily house all of your tether, while remaining portable. All you'll have to do is plug it in, turn it on, and toss the buoy and drone in the water (or leave the buoy on land). Because there's no external antennas or other components, there's nothing to snag or break. This means you'll have one tough buoy. But don't take our word for it, check out the newest prototype!
Flotation pods on either side of the tether spool enable the drone to pull it along the surface of the water without dragging it under.
Another great feature of this buoy design is that it allows us to design mounts that turn it into a larger, mountable spool if you intend to use more tether. That means no matter how much tether you want to use, we'll have your tether management covered.
The F1 development test rig allows our developers to test full drone functionality, wherever they are.
As we’ve mentioned before, the physical design of the drone and buoy are only half the story. Developing a simple, intuitive user interface is of the utmost importance in making this device one of the easiest drones to use in the world. Period. Over the past month we’ve designed and tested various control layouts beyond a simple dual-joystick configuration, and we think we’ve created something awesome. See for yourself:
This new control method is incredibly simple, yet profoundly intuitive. It works like this: The left side of the screen has been allocated for throttle control, while the right side controls drone direction (pitch and yaw). Place your thumbs wherever you like; the guide will snap into place to fit your hand. This means you don’t have to worry about landing on small joysticks to pilot the drone - just place your fingers on the screen, and the controls will come to you. Your left thumb will then become your throttle control, managing forward and reverse direction as well as speed:
This throttle interface gives you full control over drone speed. It will always default to zero thrust when you remove your hand, acting similarly to a kill switch
Your right thumb will then act as your directional control. Just like gamepad-type controllers, this will allow you to dive, rise, and turn left and right. See how it works:
These two control methods combine to give you full, fine-tuned control of your F1, ensuring that whether you’re in open water or a tight space, you’re in control. Over the coming months, we'll be honing the aesthetics of the interface to make it as beautiful as it is functional.
But what if you don’t like using a touchscreen alone for control? We’ve got you covered. We’ve also finished physical controller integration, allowing you to use a Bluetooth controller if you prefer a more tactile piloting experience:
By using a controller similar to this one, your view of the drone feed becomes completely unobstructed.
Now let’s take it one step future. What if you not only want a more tactile piloting experience, but also a more immersive one? Enter the realm of incorporating first-person viewing goggles. By utilizing the HDMI output capabilities of Android and iOS smart devices, you can plug in select FPV goggles and truly immerse yourself in the underwater world. While using nothing but your smart device is perfectly fine for piloting your drone, this setup will truly provide the ultimate underwater experience.
The image you see on-screen is mirrored to the FPV goggles, giving you a personal movie theater-like experience when you're piloting your drone.
This also means that if you want to broadcast your drone feed onto a larger monitor or TV, just plug it in and enjoy a larger view!
Over the past month, we’ve also built out the “Dive Log” capabilities in the Fathom application. This will allow you to document your expeditions while you travel to new and exciting locations. It also allows you to remember geo-tagged dive locations, dates, depths, and other important data for your own reference, and to share with friends and the Fathom community.
Per usual, there’s always a lot of exciting news to report outside of product develop. The biggest news we have to share with you is that Fathom has been invited to present the F1 at the “Drones for Good” competition in Dubai, UAE. This is incredibly exciting for a few reasons: first of all, it means we’ll be able to present the implications the F1 has in environmental and infrastructure monitoring to the international community. There’s also $1 million in research and development funds up for grabs as the top prize. Need we say more?
A groundbreaking event, the Drones for Good award is pushing the boundaries of what can be accomplished through drone technology.
We’ve also been in the process of on-boarding our beta tester community. We’ve been fortunate enough to select a group of top-notch testers that will push the drone to its limits while collecting some incredible footage along the way. We’ll be sure to share their material with you as testing begins. We’d also like to invite anyone who is interested to join our beta tester community that we’ll draw from for future tests. Just because you don’t live in the Bahamas doesn’t disqualify you; we’re looking for a diverse group of users that want to use the drone for everything from checking out their local lake, to the most intense use cases.
Now for our biggest challenges section. As we’ve told you before, no development process is without its setbacks. So instead of keeping these to ourselves, we choose to share them with you so you know exactly what’s happening behind the scenes.
The Problem: Deciding on a final buoy design. We went back and forth on this aspect of the system design for a while. Do we sacrifice some portability of the buoy and internalize the tether, or do we make the buoy more portable and integrate a simple external spool to the buoy's design?
The Solution: In the end, our choice became clear after rendering various design options. Preserve the buoy's portable nature and externalize the tether. We decided to run with this design for a few reasons: first, it'll minimize the physical footprint of the buoy for easier packing. It also allows us to handle various lengths of tether so we're not limited to the stock length provided with the F1. Lastly, it allowed us to ruggedize and simplify the design of the buoy to ensure it can handle the harshest of environments.
The Problem: Deciding what great use cases we can demonstrate at the "Drones for Good" competition in Dubai. We were thinking about building out pan/tilt cameras for inspection, sensor modules for ecosystem monitoring, even adding treads to the drone in place of thrusters for pipeline inspection! But with all the choices, it's tough to decide what's best...
The Solution: The Fathom community! All of you are an amazing group of explorers that are always coming up with great new uses for the F1. We'd love to get your thoughts as to what interesting use cases we can demonstrate at our big competition coming up in February! If you have ideas, be sure to post them under the "Use Cases" section of our forum. Here's a link: http://fathomdrone.com/forum#!/use-cases
The Problem: Honing our marketing and sales efforts to best spread the word about the Fathom One. We truly believe that we're developing a technology that's worth sharing, but it's tough without a dedicated marketing team.
Thank you all for continuing to be our foundation as we finish product development, and begin to grow as a company. There are so many exciting things coming up in Fathom's future, and we can't wait to share them all with you - our Fathom family.
Have a great holiday season!
John, Matt, Danny, and Chris