Help Echo justify buying a news-gathering submarine


Upending the Basin rotationBy David Poulson

Here at Echo we’ve written lots about drones and even experimented with using them as a potential news-reporting platform.

It’s challenging to take the concept very far as federal authorities try to sort through how to regulate them.

Now there may be a way to do something similar underwater.

TT Robotix has indicated it will come out with a remotely controlled submersible capable of taking a Go-Pro camera more than 30 feet under water. It can remotely take still and video images and even stream what the camera sees as it sees it.

The sub has significant advantages over drones. Submersibles don’t attract near the attention that drones do.  And if they fail, they’re not going to crash into a person or a car.

What’s more, there is no Federal Aqua Administration that regulates them.

That’s the good news. And I’d really like to buy one to expand Echo’s reach underwater. But…

How would we use it? The value of drone video is that it can record significant changes in land use patterns from above. It’s a great way to look at a resource issue.

At first blush, it seems like you could do that with a submersible as well. But it’s hard to see great stretches of Great Lakes bottomlands. And those may not change all that often and in significant and newsworthy ways. For one thing, there aren’t any people there to grow crops and build cities and highways.

I’m a gadget guy so that doesn’t stop me from wanting one. But help me think like a news organization. How can I justify the cost? (Delivery date and costs are so far unreported.)

You might think it would give great shots of sunken ships. But a news organization will rarely have a trained diver and wreck explorer on staff. Chances are it’s better off pursuing video taken by other explorers who know what they are doing.

How about exploring pollution outfalls? Maybe. But generally wouldn’t they be invisible underwater? A pollution test kit may be more useful for that kind of thing.

Hey, I don’t want to belittle the application of subs to news. If anything, I want to justify such a purchase.

So help me out Echo readers. If you had a mini-sub with a camera, how would you use it in the pursuit of environmental news?

David Poulson is the senior associate director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and editor of Great Lakes Echo. Upending the Basin is an occasional series of stories about reporting on the environment.

One thought on “Help Echo justify buying a news-gathering submarine

  1. Could you use it to look at dead zones? Buried pipelines? Shoreline erosion? Compare ecosystems with/without invasive species? Look for illegal dump sites?

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