Space & Innovation

Hero Drone Flies, Floats, Dives Underwater

Not all drones are bad; this one wants to save you.

Drones have developed a bad rep for interfering with flights and helping criminals smuggle drugs into prisons, but they could also be downright heroic.

The Loon Copter prototype drone wants to help with reconnaissance, rescue and salvage operations that are underwater, on the surface or in the air. It could also help with bridge foundation inspections, tracking oil spills and studying marine life.

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The quadcopter is a creation of the Oakland University Embedded Systems Research Laboratory.

The intrepid engineers behind the project are now semifinalists in the 2016 Drones for Good competition in Dubai, with the hopes of winning the $1 million grade prize.

At first glance, the Loon Copter looks a little like the DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone. It has a larger bottom barrel, however, which fills with balast water to turn it into a submarine.

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Once that buoyancy chamber fills, the drone tilts 90 degrees and its routers turn into motors. But it only sinks a few meters, so ocean floor examinations won't be possible, yet.

Then, when the drone empties its tank, it rises back up and can fly again. Or it can simple skim across the surface, with the rotors just above the water line.

The Loon Copter will be able to shoot video, but live transmission isn't yet enabled, at least not without an underwater tether. For now, emergency personnel would have to wait for the drone to return to base before viewing the film.

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The team is working on alternatives, including acoustic modems and repeater buoys.

To vote for this unique and versatile super drone in the Drones for Good competition, visit the UAE Drones for Good Award website. The finals will be held Feb. 4 to 6, 2016.

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The Best Drones and Quadcopters on Any Budget What the FAA's Drone Rules Could Mean for You Inside the World of Drone Racing This article originally appeared on Toms Guides. Copyright 2016 Toms Guides, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

From their high perspective and discreet presence, drones have the ability to capture unique aerial images. Mobile app maker Dronestagram saw the potential for a contest and this year's winners are truly inspiring. Dronestagram executives, along with staff from National Geographic, reviewed more than 5,000 photos taken by drones around the world to identify the top winners. Here, you'll find aerial imagery ranging from snorkelers in French Polynesia to a cliff diver in Mazatlan, Mexico. Enjoy! Above: This photo radiates suspense as snorkelers swim in the center of eight gliding sharks in French Polynesia. The photo took top honors in the "Nature" category.

A custom-built drone rose above the fog to capture this photograph of the cross at the top of the Cathedral of Maringa in Brazil. It won first prize in the "Places" category.

In the "Dronies" category, which represents selfie-like photos taken with drones, an image of a group of people dressed like they are out of a Where’s Wally scene (better known as Where’s Waldo in America) won first place. Where were they really? At Limassol Carnival in Cyprus.

This picture of participants at the very beginning of La Jolla, San Diego’s Pier-To-Cove ocean race took second in the "Nature" category.

Taking second place in the "Places" category, this photo of the Mont Saint-Michel island commune in Normandy, France, features calm waters, a gorgeous landmark and a spectacular sky.

This photo features Plovdiv, an ancient Bulgarian city, lit up magically at night. The image took second price for the "Popular" category, which represents the most-liked photos.

Taking third place in the "Nature" category, this photo of a tropical island in French Polynesia shows spectacular aerial imagery of a group of people with their toes in the water, along with lush trees and a breathtaking sky. Look closely and you’ll also find a hidden rainbow.

This image of a colorful field of tulips in the Netherlands and a group of people strolling trough them took third prize in the "Places" category.

This adventure-packed photo features a cliff diver in Mazatlan, Mexico, about to plummet into crystal clear water. This image was awarded third place for the "Popular" category.