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Aalto Explorer wants to make everyone an ocean explorer

Originating from a course project, Aalto Explorer will continue its underwater adventure through crowdfunding. The aim is to send a remote controlled underwater vehicle to the Baltic Sea in the summer.
aalto explorer team photo annamari tolonen
Aalto Explorer team members Henri Joona, Andrés Prieto, Manuel Rosales and Oskari Heikkilä.

An intensive planning meeting is in progress in the co-working and co-creation platform Urban Mill in Otaniemi. One screen shows an open video connection to India, and the other displays a rotating 3D model of a floating solar module. The tables are covered in piles of electronics and wires, measuring devices and cameras, battery packs and solar panels.

These ingredients are expected to result in an expedition experience Aalto Explorer, in which anyone can participate.

The vision of this international team of over ten members is to develop a remote controlled and unmanned underwater vehicle, whose underwater journey can be monitored by people all around the world through a network application. The viewers could also register as the captain in order to control the vessel.

‘The majority of the world's seas have not been explored. Our goal is to allow people to see the beauty of the seas, learn new things and even find lost treasures. At the same time, we would like to draw attention to the state of the seas’, says Aalto University master’s student Loi Tran, who is responsible for the project's business concept.

Aalto Explorer originated in 2017 on the Aalto University Product Development Project (PdP) course as a student project, which was sponsored by the company Aalto Industries. A team of students from Aalto University and the Indian School of Design & Innovation built an underwater rover and its interface prototype.

pdp gala 2017 aalto explorer photo mikko raskinen aalto university
Aalto Explorer's prototype was showcased PdP Gala at Design Factory in 2018.

The work was selected for the international student work exhibition Global Grad Show organised in Dubai. The project was received with enthusiasm, which encouraged the team to continue developing it further.

‘In Dubai, we got new ideas on how to improve the next version of the prototype and what stakeholders will expect from the service-product. For instance, we thought to add a 360 camera compatible with Virtual Reality’, says Project Manager Manuel Rosales.

In the new plan, the rover will be replaced by an underwater drone. It is powered by a surface float equipped with solar panels. The drone will have a camera producing 360-degree live video, a microphone and a robotic arm. It will also have measuring devices, so that it can collect data for scientific research.

aalto explorer app photo annamari tolonen
Underwater journey can be monitored and controlled through an app.

‘The miracle of Otaniemi’

The team consists of the Aalto Industries company, students from the PdP course, and other Aalto University students and alumni. The project has received a small amount of initial funding from a private investor, but the development team works mainly on a voluntary basis.

‘The miracle of Otaniemi’, inventor Oskari Heikkilä from Aalto Industries describes.

‘I cannot think of another place where you could find a team of over ten experts to work on a voluntary basis aside their studies and jobs in order to create something entirely unprecedented. These people have a lot of courage.’

The project’s continuation is planned to be financed by a crowdfunding campaign to be launched this summer. The objective is to raise one million euros.

‘Crowdfunding is a good way to make people around the world commit themselves with the project, and to collect the initial funding so that we can bring the development to a new level’, Loi Tran believes.

Aalto Explorer aims to embark on its journey in the Baltic Sea this year.

‘We will test the value of our vision through the crowdfunding campaign. Last year’s PdP course was so great and educational that I have high expectations for this. I believe that we will achieve something great!’, says Heikkilä.

Product Development Project

Product Development Project (PdP) is a five-period-long course that invites Master’s students from all backgrounds, but mainly engineering, industrial design, and business, to tackle challenges of collaborating companies. The teams form in September and deliver a functioning prototype in the final Gala in May.

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Aalto University / picture: Unto Rautio

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