Nfld. & Labrador

After a COVID hiccup, things are looking up again for Clarenville ocean tech company

Chad Collett started his underwater optical imaging company 10 years ago with an idea: creating the Swiss army knife of underwater cameras. But the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic on his doorstep put that work in jeopardy.
This picture of cod was taken by SubC Imaging technology. (SubC Imaging)

Chad Collett started his underwater optical imaging company 10 years ago with an idea: creating the Swiss army knife of underwater cameras.

But the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic on his doorstep put that work in jeopardy.

"COVID has made things interesting and worrisome, of course, for us," he said from his office in Clarenville, the home of SubC Imaging, which designs, develops, manufacturers and sells high tech underwater cameras, video management systems, underwater LED lights and lasers.

"One of our projects was put on hold, could be on hold for another year," he said. "Most things were delayed, as everyone first panicked and then went home."

Recently, though, there's been a trickle of a return to normal, he said: "In the last three months it started to pick up … a little bit."

There's also interest in one of their new cameras he tested last summer off his home town in Chance Cove during the recreational cod fishery. 

"We got a call from a university in Saudi Arabia who wants to use the same type of equipment do to coral reef studies," he said. "We got a call last week from New Zealand — an organization wants to do similar studies with the same equipment."

That camera, Collett said, records and saves video and digital stills while sending the video to the surface," He was just happy to go cod jigging and actually see them and see the hook going down and see them react."

Surviving the pandemic

Collett they've adapted to the pandemic by doubling down on marketing.

"We're using a backlog of years of footage [from clients] to build stories on that we're going to release every month," he said.

"We're not focusing on products and technology but on what people have done, making it interesting and showing the [scientific] papers that have been published using this equipment."

Collet said the pandemic led to other changes too, like attending virtual trade shows and advised other businesses to do the same.

"Keep an eye on the virtual. Get good web cams."

The future from 6 km under the ocean looks bright

Collett is excited about the future, which includes the rollout of a remote video-streaming service, which he compares to an "industrial Google Hangout optimized for satellite uplink."

"Through our website, you get an account from us and over a satellite network you can see remote operations from offshore from anywhere in the world," he said.

"The remote equipment is under the boat, under the ocean, up to six kilometres or deeper. So going from six kilometres under the ocean to your home or office, that's the future."

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