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.)
We are often asked about the difference between Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). While both of these are unmanned underwater vehicles, they have significant differences in their design and use. The most fundamental difference is that AUVs operate autonomously – although they were programmed by a human being, they carry out their missions without being under direct human control, and they usually do not have a tether connecting them to a mother vehicle. ROVs, by contrast, are tethered to their human operator, who pilots or “flies” the ROV using a computer console located either on the shore or on a boat or ship.
Both design strategies have strengths and weaknesses. AUVs are untethered, and thus have a greater operational radius. Once programmed, they can operate independently, carrying out missions for hours or (for larger vehicles) days. On the other hand, one programming glitch can result in a million-dollar vehicle disappearing into the inky depths, never to be seen again. The ocean is a big place, and if an AUV has a critical failure at any distance from its operational base, then it’s bye-bye AUV. For that reason, many AUV operators in practice keep the AUVs within telemetry range of a crewed vessel or base so that a failed unit can still be recovered by using its last telemetry to locate it.
ROVs by contrast need a guiding hand at all times, which means that every hour of vehicle operation is also an hour of crew time to pay for. On the plus side, ROVs tend to be more maneuverable than AUVs, since human pilots still outperform robots in field conditions.
ROVs and AUVs have a very extensive list of suitable missions. Both have military, commercial, industrial educational, and even recreational uses, and the overlap between the two types of vehicles for specific mission types is very broad. The choice between using an ROV or an AUV for a specific project often comes down to the nitty-gritty details of the mission, or the resources and philosophy of the deploying organization or individual. Both types of vehicles are outstanding at all types of underwater work, and both types of vehicle have areas where they shine a little brighter than the other. ROVs probably have the edge in terms of usability and initial investment; they are simply less expensive, and it is easier to learn how to pilot an ROV than it is to learn how to program an AUV.