Drone gets to the bot­tom of dirty hulls

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - TIM O’CONNELL

A Nel­son cou­ple have sunk thou­sands of dol­lars into a new ven­ture they hope will help clean up Nel­son’s wa­ter­ways.

Brent Hen­der­son and Char­maine Gard­ner of Abel Ma­rine are the first New Zealand agents for Keel­crab, an un­der­wa­ter drone de­signed to carry out clean­ing and hull in­spec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties of sail­ing boats of any size, yachts and maxi yachts.

The Ital­ian-made tech­nol­ogy cost the cou­ple $15,000 to bring to New Zealand, af­ter two months of due dili­gence and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the de­vice’s cre­ator, Fabio Terza­ghi.

The drone can cover a 1.5 square metre dis­tance per minute.

The es­ti­mated clean­ing time on a 15m ves­sel was 80 min­utes or 110 min­utes for an 18m ves­sel.

The Keel­crab will com­ple­ment Abel Ma­rine’s ex­ist­ing ves­sel ser­vic­ing busi­ness, al­low­ing boats to re­main in the wa­ter while be­ing cleaned, with­out re­mov­ing any anti-foul on the hull.

The drone has LED lights and a video cam­era and is op­er­ated through a re­mote con­trol sys­tem.

A vac­uum force is gen­er­ated by a cen­tral tur­bine driven by a brush­less mo­tor, which per­formed the dual func­tion of keep­ing the ro­bot at­tached to the hull while re­mov­ing al­gae formed un­der the ves­sel.

The move­ment is driven by rub­ber brushes on tracks that al­low move­ments in all di­rec­tions.

Footage cap­tured by the cam­era can then be recorded to an SD card for the client to down­load.

Hen­der­son and Gard­ner ap­pre­ci­ated the ben­e­fits that the Keel­crab pro­vided in keep­ing their own boat in the Nel­son Haven clean, as well as help­ing to im­prove the wider ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Own­ing a boat used to be quite en­joy­able, but with all the rules and reg­u­la­tions you have now it started to be a bit of a mis­sion so we thought this should make it way eas­ier.

‘‘It’s just to try keep the wa­ter­ways and mari­nas clean and make it eas­ier for the boat­ies re­ally, so if the trav­elift breaks down it’s an­other av­enue and an af­ford­able thing that peo­ple can use.’’

Hen­der­son hoped their new ven­ture would bring more boats to Nel­son as own­ers looked for an ef­fi­cient way to main­tain the biose­cu­rity of their ves­sels.

He said with the rights held to New Zealand as well as Aus­tralia the plan was to fo­cus on first estab­lish­ing Keel­crab in the top of the south be­fore look­ing fur­ther afield next year.

Long term, Gard­ner said they were work­ing on cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to ser­vice boats bound for Antarc­tica and had been in dis­cus­sions with the New Zealand Navy and ship­ping com­pa­nies.

PHOTO: MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIR­FAX NZ

Brent Hen­der­son and Char­maine Gard­ner with the Keel­crab un­der­wa­ter drone their com­pany Abel Ma­rine will use to clean boat hulls.

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