Side view of VodaSafe Handheld Sonar and Scanning Device

Handheld Sonar and Scanning Device

MistyWest was responsible for architecture design, enclosure design, experimentation and production of the first 5 devices of a first-of-its-kind lifesaving product for VodaSafe; a handheld sweeping sonar technology intended to quickly scan underwater for drowning victims.


VodaSafe is a local startup dedicated to creating products that enhance public safety in aquatic activities. In particular, they are developing products that enable lifeguards to scan for and locate victims of drowning to allow for more timely rescues. We were approached with a proof-of-concept device for VodaSafe’s novel use of ultrasonic sensor technology.

By creating an aluminum enclosure for their prototype electronics, Vodasafe was able to demonstrate successful use of the ultrasonic sensor technology to detect underwater objects up to 50m away. With the core technology already proven, MistyWest took on the challenge of creating a next revision prototype that would incorporate a few key features that were defined for the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

The key features to be included—in addition to the ultrasonic sensor and a revised PCB—were an e-ink display, multiple buttons, an improved form-factor for ergonomic use, and wireless charging. The timeline to bring these features into a fully functional prototype was relatively short, and—considering the robust power requirements and environmental stresses the device would need to withstand—the complexity of this project was rather high.

Conceptual sketches during the Ideation stage for VodaSafe
VodaSafe Aqua Eye Foam Prototype
VodaSafe Handheld Sonar and Scanning Device

The Solution

MistyWest’s team employed a parallel-path process in order to meet the client’s needs, starting with an exploration phase for our industrial designer of the shell shape. This included handle shape and location, the angles of various elements, and the shape and size of all necessary buttons. These forms were rigorously tested in a pool with real lifeguards, and helped the team narrow down to a size and shape that would allow any user to intuitively pick up the device in a high-stress situation and hold it at the correct angle to ensure an optimal scan.

At the same time, our mechanical team explored various options for creating the necessary seals to provide the IP-68 rating required. Several teardowns were completed to determine the industry-standard solutions, and materials were compared to ensure it could meet the necessary environmental conditions and impact requirements.

The project’s electrical team completed a redesigned board, which included a battery management system, various sensor integration, a wireless charging solution, and solved many issues regarding rapid power discharge required for the ultrasonic sensor. All elements were integrated into the final prototype.


MistyWest delivered 5 fully functional waterproof prototypes to VodaSafe that were successfully demonstrated at a conference shortly after project completion, allowing them to to secure initial investors. In July 2020, VodaSafe raised an additional $1.4M in seed financing to further expand the availability of AquaEyeŽ.

The device is now in use by Fire Rescue, Lifeguard, Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue teams for rescue or recovery missions. VodaSafe and founder Carlyn Loncaric took home the top prize at the Odlum Brown Forum Pitch finale, recognizing women entrepreneurs, in 2023.

VodaSafe Aqua Eye
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