Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are of great utility in conducting underwater surveillance, data collection, sonar mapping, and searches for underwater objects. However, information gathering is only one of the things these versatile underwater craft can accomplish. With the addition of manipulator and grabber arms, ROVs can perform a wide array of useful tasks. ROVs have used manipulator arms since the first ROVs were deployed by the US Navy in the 1960s to recover objects on the sea bottom (including, famously, a hydrogen bomb that sank to the bottom of the western Mediterranean following a B-52 crash in 1966). Today’s manipulator arms are considerably more advanced than those early grippers.
Generally, modern ROVs use a master-slave manipulation model, where a human operator based on a surface vessel controls the ROV’s arm(s) either with a control panel or with an actual miniature manipulator matching the manipulator on the ROV. Remote control techniques originally developed in the space program allow any operator to work the arm easily, without the need for specialized ‘crane operator’-type skills. This allows the operator to be a mission specialist or a scientist skilled in what the manipulator needs to be doing, rather than a specialist who can control the arm well but needs to be told what to do with it.
Manipulator arms can be deployed to use a wide variety of tools. These tools are often simple or complex grippers, but can also be power tools like drills, saws, cutters, wrenches, or others. The earliest ROVs were limited to very simple grippers, and it was a major step forward when ROVs became capable of doing simple jobs like opening or closing a valve handle on an underwater platform.
There are three broad general categories of manipulator use for ROVs: industrial, military/law enforcement, and scientific. Industrial ROVs can use manipulators to cut and lay pipe, make and break hydraulic connections, lay and retrieving cable, lubricate underwater machinery, carry heavy tools for human divers, conduct trenching operations, and operate machinery like valves and levers. Military/law enforcement ROVs can use manipulator arms to retrieve or tag items, to place charges (for example, to neutralize underwater mines), and to cut cables. Scientific ROVs can use manipulator arms to select samples, to gather materials for analysis, to drill into the sea bottom, to sieve lighter materials, to take core samples, and to deploy and retrieve sensors.
ROVs equipped with manipulating arms have successfully assisted in exploring sunken vessels, raising ships and objects from the ocean floor, finding victims of crimes and criminal evidence, operating oil and gas platforms, and conducting pure scientific research. The use of manipulators makes these useful tools even more effective.
In a recent entry we talked about the importance of monitoring aquatic environments. Today we are going to talk about the various ways in which that monitoring can be performed. Each way has advantages and disadvantages.
Perhaps the simplest method of monitoring is manual observation, either with measuring instruments or with the naked eye. An example of this type of monitoring is a marine biologist who manually counts the number of whales surfacing off the coast in a particular spot in a particular time. The advantages of this type of monitoring are that it requires little investment in equipment, and has the highest degree of flexibility – if the biologist sees something else of interest at the survey site, he or she can make direct, first-hand observations without the need to redesign or redeploy instrumentation. Human observers may also be able to fix errors in the monitoring protocol “on the fly” in a way that a more instrument-focused approach cannot. For example, if a site survey has a particular set of GPS coordinates and the human observer arrives at those coordinates and realizes that the site location is off, the observer can fix the mistake and carry out the survey. The primary disadvantages of manual observation are that recurring observations quickly become very expensive, and there may also be reliability issues. For example, a graduate student can forget to come in to conduct a set of observations. Manual observations may also be subject to greater biases and subjectivity effects.
Another fairly simple, though powerful, technique for monitoring is the deployment of fixed sensors, whether singly or as part of a sensor network. An example of this type of monitoring is the global network of fixed data collection buoys and shore stations maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Data Buoy Center. This network of more than 1300 stations collects ocean temperature, current, conductivity, wave height, and wave frequency data, along with meteorological data, for use in weather forecasting, tsunami detection and alerts, and scientific and commercial research. The advantages of a fixed sensor network are in the acquisition of historical data sets which can be continuously compared to new data, the relative ease of maintenance of a network of fixed sites, and the ability to develop a comprehensive network. Indeed, the NDBC’s network has achieved global reach, making it one of the most valuable and useful fixed sensor networks in existence. The disadvantage of fixed sensors is that, being fixed, they cannot easily be redeployed to cover a new area of the aquatic region being monitored.
A more flexible approach to sensor deployment is the use of drop sensors, or temporary sensors for a particular location, which are then collected for re-use or allowed to degrade in place. An example of this type of sensor deployment would be the temporary placement of water-quality sondes along a flooding river system; the data collected from the sondes would be used for a limited time and then the sondes would be picked up and put back into storage or used on a different project. The advantage of this type of deployment is that it is extremely flexible; the sensors can be placed at the specific points where data collection is most important, and easily relocated as needs shift or if the initial deployment was less than optimal. The disadvantages of a drop sensor approach are that the sensors are generally not in a hardened or protected structure and are subject to theft, vandalism, or damage or destruction from environmental causes, and there is also potential for data loss owing to the ad hoc nature of the network infrastructure. For example, a set of inexpensive temporary buoys might be deployed to record ocean currents over a period of time, with the data to be collected at the end of the study period, only to have a major storm hit the network on the last day before collection, sinking half of the buoys and compromising the entire project.
The most sophisticated approach to monitoring the aquatic environment is to place the survey instruments on a ship, boat, or other craft and take the desired measurements from that vessel. For example, an aquaculture facility might have small craft with water quality sensors mounted in the hull to patrol the edge of the fish pens, testing the level of contaminants in the water. This approach has the advantages of most of the other approaches described here; it is flexible, it is protected from the environment, it has human observers on-site to address problems or concerns, etc. The main disadvantage of this approach is that ships and boats tend to be very expensive. The NBDC would need a much larger budget if it wanted to keep 1300 crewed ships on station to watch for tsunamis!
One way of greatly reducing the costs of this approach is to utilize ROVs as the data collection platforms. As ROVs are small, often portable by just one person, they can be deployed very flexibly in any aquatic environment, from water tanks to the deep ocean. Since they are controlled by a human operator, they maintain great flexibility and ability to adapt on the spot to problems that may arise, and are also protected against theft or vandalism by the proximity of the operator. When adverse weather or environmental conditions arise, the ROVs can be pulled out of the water, reducing the risk of data loss or loss of the vehicle itself owing to those kinds of conditions. Most importantly, ROVs can be equipped with a very wide array of top-quality scientific sensors, enabling them to monitor aquatic conditions just as well as sensor buoys or shore stations.
Every data collection mission has its own objectives and special needs, and finding the right type of monitoring solution for the mission requires judgment. ROV-based data collection is one option among many, but it is an option that is very flexible and has the potential to keep costs low without compromising the data collection process.
A vast array of organizations, governments, and individuals conduct monitoring in aquatic environments for an equally vast array of purposes. Monitoring is done for ecological reasons, for example, to record changes in the volume of a lake or stream so that managers will know whether to fill or drain a particular reservoir. Monitoring is done for legal reasons, for example, a factory that discharges waste into a river will be required to measure the levels of pollutants in order to comply with water quality laws. Monitoring is done for scientific and research reasons, for example, to assess changes in the temperature or salinity of the water in an area. Monitoring is also done for commercial reasons, for example, to check the bacterial counts in an aquaculture tank to ensure that the fish population is staying healthy and free of disease.
Some types of monitoring focus on the water itself, and its physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. This type of monitoring may look at the temperature of water over time, changes in its rate of flow or total volume in an area such as a lake or pond, or the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water. The monitoring may be done in order to assess the safety of the water for use by humans for drinking; is water from this stream low enough in harmful microorganisms to be directly usable without treatment, or does it require biological filtration? Monitoring may be done to ensure that water used in irrigation stays below a certain level of salinity and does not contain any of a number of pollutants. Monitoring could also be done in order to make sure that a pollution-control system upstream is working as intended.
Other types of monitoring are focused more on the species living in the aquatic environment. Marine biologists often engage in population surveys in a particular region, measuring the prevalence and population of a specific species or group of species. One famous example of this type of research is the tracking of salmonid numbers in the 20th century, which led to the discovery that increasing acidification of streams and oceans was impacting salmon and trout populations. This type of monitoring is done in several different ways; for large species such as oceangoing mammals, scientists may actually attach tracking devices to specific members of the species and gather data from the individuals’ movements, while for smaller creatures like fish, techniques such as gill-netting an area and then counting the fish in the net may be employed. Less invasively, water sampling might be done to measure bacterial levels when that is the focus of the research goal.
The specific environment being studied is of course highly relevant to how that environment can be monitored. Environmental monitoring of an aquatic environment can be done at a very “micro” level – a single sensor taking readings from a small aquatic habitat like a fish tank is technically monitoring that aquatic environment. At the opposite extreme, satellites in space can monitor vast expanses of ocean, at least coarsely. Most commonly, the scope of the aquatic environment to be monitored will dictate the range of appropriate monitoring solutions, whether that be simple cameras or sophisticated orbital satellites.
In next week’s blog we will take a look at the various ways in which monitoring of the aquatic environment is actually carried out.
Global warming has the potential to have major impacts on aquaculture. Over the past century, global warming (both human-caused and deriving from natural cycles) has increased the average global air temperature by around 1 degree Fahrenheit, 0.6 degrees Celsius. The world’s oceans, which have a vastly greater thermal mass than the atmosphere, have changed by only 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit (0.1 degree Celsius), with nearly all of that warming occurring in the surface layers. Even this relatively small change is enough to have major impacts on human food production in the ocean.
One significant impact from global warming is likely to be the reduction in the growth rate of krill. Krill are a family of tiny crustacean species that live in all of the world’s oceans and are the foundation of the aquatic food chain. Krill feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton, and are in turn consumed by fish and other aquatic animals in enormous quantities. Krill are fished commercially and used as a feedstock for aquaculture operations. As ocean temperatures rise, the reproductive rate of krill has been shown to decline significantly. This will make food stocks for aquaculture more expensive.
A major fraction of aquaculture is conducted in areas immediately offshore and in riparian (river) environments. Rising ocean temperatures may disrupt these operations by altering the sea level, changing coastlines and impacting river systems. Rising ocean temperatures alter the sea level in two ways – first, by causing increased melt rates at the polar ice caps, and also because of the fact that warmer water expands and takes up a larger volume. Even very small increases in temperature can have measurable impact on sea level. In riparian aquaculture, increased incursions of salt water can reduce yield or make operations untenable. Changes in water salinity also has enormous impacts on the presence and prevalence of species, which can throw aquaculture operations into chaos.
Further offshore, higher ocean temperatures are likely to cause stronger and more frequent storms. This is problematic for deep-water aquaculture operations, requiring a more robust infrastructure and increasing costs from storm damage. Warmer temperatures can also cause instability in marine ecosystems, as invasive species enter areas that were formerly too cold for them. This can cause issues for aquaculture operations that were predicated on a particular local ecosystem. Inshore operations are not immune to this change; many aquaculture operations rely on the monsoon season and it is expected that changing water temperatures will tend to disrupt this major weather pattern.
A significant portion of global aquaculture comes from the cultivation of mollusks. Mollusks as a group tend to be very temperature sensitive, and as waters warm, mollusk-growing operations will need to move to colder waters in order to maintain yield. When that is not possible, that portion of the aquaculture system could cease to function.
One major, albeit indirect, disruption could come from changing availability of freshwater inshore. Ecologists anticipate that global warming will cause reductions in the availability of freshwater, particularly in Africa and Asia, and as a result of this water stress, water for aquaculture development may simply not be available.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that future water temperature increases will have an increasing impact on the development of new aquaculture projects. Currently, the majority of world aquaculture is in the tropics, and although those areas are still growing strongly, new development is likely to center around the temperate zones of our planet. Increases in ocean temperature is expected to be significantly higher in the colder northern and southern waters than in the equatorial zone. That means that new aquaculture projects, for example off the eastern seaboard of the United States, are likely to be severely impacted by water temperature changes.
There are basically two kinds of power systems for tethered underwater remote operated vehicles (ROVs). One type of ROV has a power cable running down the tether, and the ROV gets the electricity to run its motors, operate its lights and sensors, etc., from a shore station, either a large battery pack or an electrical connection. The other type of ROV carries its power supply internally, generally in the form of high-capacity rechargeable lithium battery pack.
For some specialized missions, an ROV powered from the shore has its uses. However, for most types of ROV operations, a battery-powered ROV like the Aquabotix Endura or Hydroview Sport has the clear advantage. There are three main factors that make running an ROV from battery power the better choice.
First, battery power is portable. A battery-powered ROV can be deployed anywhere the ROV can be carried to, and the lightweight ROVs made by Aquabotix can be carried by one person to almost any location on Earth. Battery-powered ROVs can be deployed from the beach, from a small boat, from an oceangoing ship, from an offshore platform – if a person or vehicle can get there, then a battery-powered ROV can go with them and engage in missions from that spot.
Second, battery power is compact. The person or team deploying a battery-powered ROV does not need to carry a bulky generator with them to remote areas in order to send the ROV on missions. They can carry the charged ROV to the entry point and work from there without needing any expensive and heavy infrastructure. This makes a one-off mission even in the remotest areas simply a matter of putting the charged ROV in a vehicle (or even a backpack) and heading out.
Third, because radio waves do not carry well underwater, all non-autonomous ROVs use a tether to provide control and communication with the operator. In an ROV that relies on shore-based power, this tether also carries the electrical power the ROV uses for its operations. That means the tether must be much thicker for a shore-powered ROV. For example, a typical power-carrying cable might be [X – Beats me <g>] millimeters in diameter, while the tether for an Aquabotix ROV has a diameter of only [X] millimeters. Of course, a thicker tether is also a heavier tether – 250 meters of standard power-carrying tether weighs [X] kilograms, while the same Aquabotix tether weighs only [X]. This makes moving and deploying the battery-powered ROV much simpler and easier.
Battery-powered ROVs are simply easier to deploy, easier to carry, and able to operate in places that powered ROVs cannot.
Fish farming in the ocean and off the coasts has become an enormous business. Declining wild fisheries and an insatiable (and growing) global appetite for fish have created tremendous opportunities for the development of oceanic aquaculture. Local cultures have conducted aquaculture (generally in lakes and river systems, rather than the ocean) for thousands of years, but modern aquaculture has become a globally important food source. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about half of the world’s food fish come from aquaculture, and the sector continues to grow at an astonishing rate – five to six percent annual increases in production are the norm. Total aquaculture production is over 80 million tons per year of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic plants.
There are two basic types of oceanic fish farming. Coastal farming involves shallow-water farms located on the coast, along rivers, or in lakes. Open ocean farming involves deep-water farms that are not tied to a specific coastal location. There are important differences in these two approaches to oceanic aquaculture.
Coastal fish farming is the predominant form of oceanic aquaculture today. In a coastal aquaculture facility, pens or fish cages are deployed along the coastline, often in a protected bay or inlet. Most crustacean and mollusk farming is done inshore, using racks on which the food animals are grown. Depending on the species being farmed, the nutrients for the farmed food animals might come from the water itself, from the provision of forage fish, or from the addition of nutrients into the water in soluble form.
There are advantages to farming fish along the coast. Because the facility is located near the shore, storms are attenuated by the proximity of the landmass, and both workers and shipping infrastructure are close at hand. Operators can bring in supplies and export product from the convenience of local railheads and ports. Because the water is generally shallow at the coastline, it is also possible for operators to use ranch-style techniques, building habitats on the sea bottom for desirable fish such as abalone, and then simply catching the fish in the normal fashion without needing to closely manage the population.
Coastal farms have a number of significant disadvantages as well. Coastal areas are subject to intense competition from other uses such as recreational activities, fisheries, ports, and renewable energy development. Fixed-site aquaculture also has fairly severe environmental impacts on the delicate coastal ecosystem. Fish farms produce large quantities of waste and excess nutrients, which settle onto a fixed location on the sea bottom. This can utterly disrupt or even extinguish the local benthic ecosystem, causing repercussions to fisheries and tourism. Disease among the fish stocks is also a major problem, and because coastal fish farms can be close to one another, a disease which decimates one population can spread to other operations, even crossing species barriers.
Offshore fish farming, or deep-ocean aquaculture, cuts the ties to the shore, although not to the sea bottom. Generally, an offshore facility is tethered to the bottom and anchored to buoys, so that cages can move up and down in the water column but are still at a fixed location in the ocean. An offshore aquaculture can be sited almost anywhere, and does not have to compete with pleasure boating or fishing fleets. In addition, the much greater area (and stronger currents) available for dispersal of waste products and excess nutrients means that the environmental impact is significantly reduced or eliminated. Disease transmission is less problematic, and experimental offshore aquaculture operations have found that parasitic infestations are much more easily managed in the relative isolation of an offshore facility. Offshore locations are also more able to coexist with other uses of the same area of the ocean; since the cages can be moved deeper into the water than is possible in a coastal area, other uses such as boating can be accommodated.
Offshore aquaculture has its own set of problems, however. The expense of building cages that can withstand the storms and currents of the open ocean is considerable. Because the environmental conditions are more rigorous in the open sea, fish escapes are more likely to occur, which has ramifications both in terms of cost and in the potential for the introduction of invasive species to ecologically vulnerable areas of ocean. In addition, the laws and regulatory environments that apply close to shore (within the three-mile limit, for example) become more complex further out to sea; for this reason, off-shore aquaculture in the United States has primarily developed only in areas of the ocean that are unambiguously under Federal jurisdiction so that operators can have a predictable legal environment in which to do business.
Despite the potential issues and problems that arise in both coastal and offshore aquaculture, it is a certainty that these areas of economic activity will continue to grow and expand. Fish are a vital part of the global food infrastructure and aquaculture is rapidly becoming the dominant way in which this sector produces its output.
Underwater cave diving is one of the most interesting, fascinating, and dangerous types of underwater exploration, and offers divers the relatively rare opportunity to explore genuinely unknown territory. From the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula to the submerged coastal caves of Mallorca, underwater caves are beautiful, archeologically important, but perilous to untrained and trained divers alike. The dangers of underwater cave diving have led to the development of strict protocols and training regimes for underwater cavers, which ironically have made the actual death rates from such diving fairly low.
Unlike open-water diving, where a diver in distress can simply head to the surface, cave diving is a type of penetration diving. To leave the dive zone, the diver must swim back out of the cave, as far as he or she has already penetrated, reversing an often difficult navigational process and requiring enough air to reach the surface. Caves can have strong currents, both of inflow and outflow varieties, and some cave systems have inflows to one egress and outflows from others, meaning that a diver can easily underestimate the amount of time it will take to retrace a route. Visibility can vary wildly from perfect to zero within the same cave. In addition, there is a possibility of getting lost in a cave of any significant size.
All of these factors mean that cave diving is out of reach of casual divers (or should be), and cave exploration thus left to a relatively small cadre of extremely well-trained divers. However, the development of inexpensive and easy-to-use ROVs has changed the balance in cave exploration. ROVs can be sent into the water by people with zero dive experience to explore caverns, caves and cave systems in perfect safety. Modern ROVs have high-resolution video camera systems and powerful lighting systems which permit incredibly detailed views of the underwater environment, efficient electric motors that allow hours of underwater time, and long tethers which permit explorers to penetrate hundreds of meters into underwater cave systems. In addition, a small ROV can be packed overland to inaccessible inland underwater caves, such as the deep cenotes in the Yucatan, or easily deployed from a small boat in coastal locations.
ROVs are also a useful support tool for experienced divers who are exploring difficult or unknown cave systems.
ROVs can be used to ‘scout’ unfamiliar passages or to check whether there is a passageway between two tunnel systems, without putting a human diver at risk. Because ROVs have a much longer dive duration than a human diver, a single scouting mission with an ROV can open up large areas of new caves for the human divers to follow up on. ROVs can also find the most interesting areas for human divers to explore, allowing the limited human dive times to be spent in the most enjoyable or most important areas of the cave system.
Although many underwater cave explorers are motivated purely by recreation or the challenge, there is also considerable scientific interest in exploring underwater caves. ROVs have been an enormous asset to scientists and archaeologists in exploring the cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America. Cenotes are large sinkholes that open onto groundwater from an underlying aquifer. There are thought to be more than 2,500 cenotes in the Yucatan area alone, and many of them are of great archeological significance because they were used as ceremonial sites by the Maya civilization. Although many large cenotes have been at least somewhat explored by archeologists in the last century, many remain untouched or even undiscovered. Researchers and explorers have been using ROVs since the early 2000s to explore and map the Yucatan cenotes, as well as the extensive underground cave systems that many cenotes connect to.
As in most areas where ROVs are deployed, ROVs used in cave exploration serve to greatly extend the range and effectiveness of human divers, and also open up new possibilities that simply would not exist without these useful tools.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept first discussed by entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999 when he was developing radio frequency ID (RFID) tags as a method for tracking inventory. The IoT concept is based on the ever-increasing number of objects in the physical world which are equipped with computing power, sensors, actuators, and – most importantly - network connectivity, and the fact that these objects, while running their own proprietary operating systems and carrying out their own specific design functions, are also interoperable within the global Internet ecosystem. For example, a smartphone carried by a human being, a Coca-Cola vending machine with a wireless connection back to the vending distributor’s intranet, and an Aquabotix research ROV feeding data back to a university Web server are all wildly different objects, but all of them are part of the Internet of Things. Researchers estimate that by 2020, there will be almost 50 billion distinct objects in the IoT infrastructure.
The IoT is one of those concepts that are incredibly interesting, and which have the potential to also become incredibly important. Right now, that Coca-Cola vending machine and the Aquabotix ROV and the smartphone don’t have a lot to say to one another. Some pundits are fond of imagining scenarios wherein the researcher operating the ROV parks the vehicle and walks home, and some yet-to-be-developed algorithm correlates the powered-off status on the ROV, her geographic location from the smartphone, historical data about ROV researcher thirstiness in the post-work environment, and the proximity of the Coke machine to cause a message to popup on her phone suggesting that she might want to stop by the vending machine and grab a Coke.
That’s a neat idea in theory (although if my smartphone starts giving me unsolicited advice to buy soda, I’m going to turn it off and go live in the woods) but in real life the practical applications of the IoT are likely to be a lot bigger than boosting retail point-of-sale numbers. If the history of technology is any guide (hint: it is), a lot of those applications are not going to be known in advance. We’re going to find them as we go along, as new data produces new insights. Those insights will make new applications for the data possible. In the underwater world, it is very likely that the relationship between ROVs and the IoT are an undiscovered country – we don’t yet know what we don’t know. We’re going to have to find out.
The main driver of that discovery process, for some time to come, is likely to be the collection of all sorts of data. One of the key selling points of ROVs for underwater work is that they make the collection of information about the underwater world possible, sometimes for the first time, and also remarkably inexpensive. This combination of newly-possible data acquisition, and the newfound cheapness of that same acquisition, is going to be a driver of all sorts of data collection which was not even imagined ten or twenty years ago. For example, sonar mapping of a harbor is something that used to cost [hundreds of thousands of dollars – my out-of-my-butt estimate] and require [millions of dollars – similarly a guess] worth of equipment to do it, and so it was something done at an interval of years or decades (if ever) and only at sites of critical importance. Today that sonar mapping can be done for thousands of dollars, with ROVs that fit easily within the budget of a small commercial marina – and so vastly more harbor mapping is being done. The same new horizons are opening up in environmental data, data on fisheries, temperature and sediment data around coastal or riparian industrial sites, and a hundred other types of information.
As that data comes in, the people who earn their living in these industries and areas are likely to find amazing new ways to use the information – and those applications will in turn feed more data into the system in a virtuous cycle. This discovery process is likely to be an extremely exciting time for people in underwater industries – and ROVs are likely to be one of the foremost tools used in the discovery process.
AQUABOTIX INTRODUCES NEW MINI INSPECTION CLASS ROV – THE ENDURA
Intuitive software and robust hardware make the Aquabotix Endura the most innovative and advanced mini-ROV on the market.
FALL RIVER, MA – May 19, 2016– Aquabotix, a marine technology company delivering the accessibility of today’s electronics products to the complex world of underwater ROVs, announces the immediate availability of the Endura. The Endura has been engineered for dependability and functionality across a wide range of underwater applications. It surpasses other mini ROVs in thrust, dependability and software performance.
Endura is easy to use – it is ready for the water in 3 minutes, basic driver competency is developed in about 3 hours with professional proficiency achieved in 3 days. Endura is intelligent – a full computer is built inside the vehicle and auto controls are available in the software. Endura is high performance – with hydrodynamic design for ultimate control in the water and powered by high torque motors for up to 5 knots of thrust. The Endura configuration includes:
Endura operates on lithium battery technology with a standard operational run time of 4 hours. Available as an option, AC power can be used for continuous operation. Other options include:
“Innovation is the cornerstone of Aquabotix mission and the Endura is the latest example of our constantly evolving technology,” said Durval Tavares, President & CEO, “With roots from our successful series of HydroView ROVs, the Endura is a refined advancement with our latest hardware and software innovations. Our customers are tackling very complex underwater tasks and the Endura is a response to their needs and requests. Every feature of this vehicle has been designed with ease of use and performance in mind.”
Endura pricing starts at $17,000 and is currently available for order from Aquabotix. For more information, please call: +1 508 676 1000 or visit http://www.aquabotix.com/professional-rovs---endura.html.
Aquabotix Technology Corporation, located in southern New England, is a privately-funded developer of consumer and commercial products for underwater observation and exploration endeavoring to change the way people interact with the underwater world. Aquabotix’s flagship offerings, the Endura remote operated submersible vehicle (ROV) and the AquaLens underwater viewing system, employ the latest technology to enable users to comfortably inspect beneath the water’s surface from the safety of topside. For more information on Aquabotix Technology Corporation and its offerings, please visit: http://www.aquabotix.com/
One of the most exciting areas of innovation and growth in underwater vehicles is the development of underwater vehicles for the secondary education market – that is, middle school and high school students. These autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) aren’t as sophisticated as modern commercial craft, but they teach young people the basics of designing, building, and operating underwater vehicles in an affordable way. Underwater vehicles aimed at the high school education system (or the individual hobbyist) can be purchased in kit form for very modest amounts of money.
The SeaGlide is a glider, a unique form of untethered AUV. Gliders are autonomous winged robot vehicles which don’t have a conventional propulsion system – no propeller, in other words. Instead, they move by altering their buoyancy – taking in or pumping out water – and altering their center of gravity. Each change in buoyancy causes the craft to rise and sink. With each cycle of rising and falling, the glider’s wings cause a pressure differential which generates forward velocity – the craft literally glides through the water. This is an extremely energy-efficient, albeit slow, form of propulsion – in 2009 an autonomous glider called Scarlet Knight made a 221-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
The SeaGlide doesn’t have that kind of endurance, but it still can teach young science and engineering students a great deal about AUVs. SeaGlide kits come with everything needed to build an autonomous underwater glider, complete with temperature and pressure sensors. There is also a complete curriculum, covering electronics, soldering, programming using the Arduino Pro Mini computers that control the SeaGlide, building the servo-driven motor that powers the SeaGlide, and more. Since each SeaGlide kit costs less than $250, it is an accessible learning tool for students everywhere.
(You can learn more about SeaGlide at www.seaglide.net.)
Students interested in a more conventional ROV might want to look at the SeaPerch program. SeaPerch is a curriculum and kit combination that allows students to build an ROV from low-cost, readily-available parts. The SeaPerch curriculum is very thorough, covering ship and submarine design, buoyancy, propulsion, soldering, tool usage, electronics, waterproofing, the physics of underwater motion, career possibilities in underwater industries, and much more. Students learn practical engineering techniques and principles in the process of building their own ROV – and they get to design the ROV themselves, since the SeaPerch is a concept and a kit, not a specific formal design.
SeaPerch is more than just an ROV kit, however. The program offers training to teachers (“teaching the teachers”) including continuing education credits for free one and 1.5 day training events, as well as providing free online training. There is also a nationwide network of competitive districts for SeaPerch Challenges, allowing students to compete with their vehicles in head-to-head matchups with other schools, testing vehicle performance, design innovation and quality, build technique, and more. SeaPerch kits cost less than $200 apiece, with an optional $250 tool kit for schools which may not have things like soldering irons and power drills.
(You can learn more about SeaPerch at www.seaperch.org.)
As cool as they are, SeaPerch and SeaGlide are just the tip of the underwater vehicle iceberg. Students interested in learning more about a career in underwater technology should check out MATE, the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center, a national organization dedicated to advancing marine technical education and preparing the future marine technology workforce. MATE sponsors and runs national-level ROV competitions, and they also offer on-board internship programs on research vessels operated by the US Coast Guard, the Ocean Exploration Trust, and University National Oceanographic Laboratory System.
MATE has comprehensive information on college-level marine technology programs, scholarships, and internships, and they offer faculty development workshops for teachers and professors of marine science. MATE also publishes “Underwater Robotics: Science, Design & Fabrication”, the gold standard textbook in the building of ROVs and AUVs, and provides free guides and tutorials on constructing a number of more advanced ROVs.
(You can learn more about MATE’s extensive program offerings at www.marinetech.org.)