Optimize Underwater Explorers with Single Board Computer (a Case of LattePanda)

Underwater explorer (underwater exploration equipment) represents a category of cutting-edge tools, widely employed in diverse aquatic environments such as oceans, rivers, and lakes. These remarkable apparatuses encompass remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and submersible drones. Adorned with state-of-the-art precision sensors, high-resolution cameras, and specialized measurement instruments, they possess the capacity to diligently amass and scrutinize data beneath the water's surface. These remarkable contrivances undertake a myriad of tasks, including underwater cartography, environmental monitoring, archaeological exploration, and infrastructure inspection.


Underwater explorer finds extensive applications in various fields, including but not limited to:


Oceanography Research: Oceanographers utilize underwater explorer to study the marine environment, including seabed topography, water currents, biodiversity, and oceanic chemical composition. The data collected by these devices is critical for understanding global climate change, the health of marine ecosystems, and rising sea levels.


Environmental Protection and Monitoring: Underwater devices are used to monitor water quality, pollutant dispersion, coral reef health, and other environmental indicators, aiding scientists in assessing the impact of human activities on aquatic environments.


Oil and Gas Exploration: underwater explorer plays a vital role in the oil and gas industry. With the help of these devices, scientists and engineers can detect and assess potential oil and gas fields, conduct geological structure analyses, and oversee the safety of drilling and extraction operations.


Fisheries Management: Through underwater explorer, the distribution and abundance of fisheries resources can be monitored, aiding in the formulation of sustainable fishing quotas and management strategies.


Submarine Cable and Pipeline Installation and Maintenance: When laying and maintaining communication cables and oil/gas pipelines on the seafloor, underwater explorer is used to inspect and maintain these infrastructures, ensuring their smooth operation and safety.


Underwater Exploration Equipment

Figure: Underwater Exploration Equipment


Underwater explorer faces a range of unique challenges in design and operation, often exceeding the scope of conventional ground or aerial devices. Here are some key challenges:


Power Management: In the underwater environment, battery life is especially crucial as battery replacement is inconvenient and potentially risky. Efficient power management systems are required to maximize battery longevity.


Data Transmission: Underwater environments pose challenges for wireless signals, as traditional wireless communication technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have limited propagation underwater. Therefore, data transmission solutions need to be specifically considered.


Size and Weight: Underwater devices typically need to be compact and lightweight for easy transportation and maneuverability, while also accounting for underwater buoyancy and fluid dynamics.


User-Friendliness: Operating underwater explorer requires specific skills and knowledge, making it essential for the device's user interface to be as intuitive as possible to minimize the potential for operational errors.


Image Processing Capability: Underwater exploration devices often require real-time processing to compensate for factors like lighting adjustments and color distortion. This necessitates imaging equipment with sufficient processing power to perform complex image processing tasks.


LattePanda 3 Delta in UHAB (An Underwater Habitat Project)


Figure: UHAB Underwater Habitat by SAGA

Figure: UHAB Underwater Habitat by SAGA


UHAB is a high-tech underwater habitat developed by SAGA Space Architects, which aims to provide a facility for astronaut training and marine ecosystem research. It simulates a highly realistic space mission while exploring the ocean and providing possibilities for unparalleled underwater research. Living underwater offers conditions similar to outer space, making it an ideal environment for preparing astronauts for space missions and spacewalk training. The habitat will also enable new methods of studying marine ecosystems, which is increasingly important due to climate change.


 UHAB Underwater Habitat

Figure: UHAB Underwater Habitat


The LattePanda 3 Delta, a potent iteration of the LattePanda single board computer series unveiled in 2022, has been selected by SAGA for integration into the UHAB project's technological suite. This compact yet powerful computer interfaces seamlessly with an array of sensors, monitoring CO2, CO, O2, atmospheric pressure, air quality, temperature, and humidity levels. Its robust performance is pivotal to UHAB's operations, as it deftly collates and interprets sensor-derived data in real-time, ensuring the habitat's research and training objectives are achieved with precision and reliability.


LattePanda Single Board Computer in UHAB Underwater Habitat

Figure: LattePanda Single Board Computer in UHAB Underwater Habitat


In September 2023, SAGA successfully concluded a 48-hour mission with an aquanaut residing in the UHAB at a depth of 7 meters. The aquanaut has now safely returned to the Earth's surface.



Why choose LattePanda for underwater explorer?

High Performance

The utilization of high-performance processors is one of the prominent features exhibited by LattePanda in underwater explorer. Equipped with an Intel chip, it not only efficiently executes the Windows 10 operating system but also processes high-resolution image data, which is crucial for underwater photography. For instance, the LattePanda 3 Delta in the above case boasts the Intel® Celeron® N5105 (2-Core, 4-Thread) processor and supports up to 8GB RAM, providing excellent performance. This implies that it can swiftly process images, enabling real-time image analysis. This includes dynamic range adjustments, white balance corrections during capturing, as well as the implementation of intricate image recognition algorithms for species identification or behavior pattern analysis.


Abundant I/O Capabilities

LATTEPANDA offers a diverse range of input/output interfaces, each catering to specific requirements:


  • USB Interfaces:

- USB 3.0: Facilitating high-speed data transfer, it is particularly suitable for connecting high-resolution cameras and fast storage devices. This allows for prompt saving and transmission of high-quality images and videos.


- USB 2.0: Enables connection to low-speed devices such as keyboards, mice, or other control interfaces, facilitating device configuration and control.


  • Display Outputs:

HDMI/DP Interface: Enables connection to display screens for on-site monitoring of captured footage or direct display of the device's operational interface.


  • Programmable GPIO (General-Purpose Input/Output):

- Digital I/O: Used for connecting various sensors (e.g., temperature, pressure, water level sensors) and actuators (e.g., LED indicators, motor controllers), directly controlling the functionality of the photographic equipment, such as the on/off switch of a flash or adjustments to focal length.


- Analog Input: Vital for sensors that require reading analog signals (e.g., pH sensors or underwater conductivity sensors), the analog input interface enables water quality monitoring and subsequent parameter adjustments of the photographic equipment.


- I2C, SPI: These high-speed communication interfaces are suitable for connecting high-performance sensors and modules, such as high-speed image sensors or positioning modules. They provide real-time feedback to optimize shooting results and device positioning.


  • Other Expansion Ports:

M.2/PCIe: Provided in certain LattePanda models, they allow for the addition of specific communication modules (e.g., 4G LTE module) or other high-speed devices.


Built-in Operating System

LattePanda comes pre-installed with the Windows 10 operating system, providing developers with a familiar development environment. Windows 10 support means developers can utilize a wide range of Windows software ecosystems, including various image processing software and programming tools such as MATLAB, OpenCV, etc. These resources aim to enhance the efficiency and quality of underwater photography.


Compact Size

LattePanda's compact size makes it highly suitable for integration into space-constrained underwater explorer, enabling effective operation in small and complex underwater environments. This design allows more space for other essential components such as batteries, lighting equipment, or additional sensors. The LattePanda 3 Delta is only pocket-sized, while the performance-driven LattePanda Sigma measures only 146mm x 102mm.


Networking Capabilities

Wireless Communication Modules: WiFi or Bluetooth modules can be connected to facilitate wireless data transmission, which is crucial for real-time reception of underwater data by surface vessels or research stations.

Ethernet Port: Used for wired network connections, ensuring reliable and high-speed data transmission. Both the LattePanda 3 Delta and LattePanda Sigma are equipped with a 2.5G Ethernet port, providing users with faster wired network connectivity. Compared to traditional 1Gbps Ethernet ports, the 2.5Gbps port significantly improves data transfer speeds. This is especially important for underwater exploration and research, as they often involve the transmission of high-resolution image and video data.


Low Power Consumption

LattePanda's low-power design provides a significant advantage for underwater photographic devices, as it greatly extends the operational time of the devices underwater while reducing the frequency of battery replacements and associated risks. The LattePanda V1 has a thermal design power (TDP) of a mere 2W, requiring only a 5V/2A power supply to operate. In comparison, the high-performance LattePanda 3 Delta and Sigma model consumes much lower power than other products with similar capabilities. This low-power operating mode ensures prolonged data collection and image capture capabilities while alleviating the device's energy burden. This enables the use of smaller, lighter batteries, which is crucial for optimizing buoyancy and maneuverability in underwater exploration systems. Additionally, improved energy efficiency provides greater flexibility for device designers, allowing them to integrate more sensors and functional modules without sacrificing performance. Consequently, this enables the realization of more complex and intelligent operations in harsh underwater environments.


Underwater explorer constitutes a technologically advanced field that involves various complex environmental factors and technical requirements. In this realm, LattePanda offers an efficient, reliable, and user-friendly solution through its high-performance processors, versatile I/O interfaces, built-in Windows 10 operating system, compact design, expandability, and low-power operation mode. Whether for scientific research, environmental monitoring, commercial photography, or industrial applications, LattePanda readily adapts to the demanding requirements of underwater photographic devices, making it a powerful tool for underwater exploration and monitoring missions.