Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and weights, but no matter the make or model of underwater vehicle, there are a set of best practices to keep in mind when transporting an ROV to and from a mission site. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on inspection class mini ROVs which don’t require flat bed trucks, cranes or research vessels for portage:
Protect Vehicle and Instruments with Purpose-Built Hard Cases
Protecting your hardware during travel begins with how well its packed. Underwater vehicle systems are sold with hard carrying cases such as Pelican cases. Single Lid Cases or ISP (Inter Stacking Pattern) Cases are the most common options, especially those which can be carried with handles, moved with wheels, and stacked together for transport. What’s inside a case is equally important – the interior protection offered by precision cut foam, Velcro cinch straps, and shock mounts will reduce overall shock and vibration on your parts and increase their travel lifespan.
Always Organize Cases for Field Work
Before you depart for a mission, pack all equipment in a way which makes it easy to find and access each component once you are on location. Field deployment, maintenance and repairs are challenging enough; Make sure you are never left searching or digging through piles of equipment to find the tool you need by anticipating how and when each piece of equipment and their associated parts will be used when you arrive on-site.
Know the Regulations on Lithium Battery Transport
If your underwater vehicles or equipment are battery powered, you should get familiar with Lithium Battery regulations, especially for air transport. Rechargeable lithium batteries are great for powering electronics, but they are also regarded as Dangerous Goods. Regulations may change over time, and change between country of origin and destination, so keeping current on rules is a must. The two organizations to check include the US Department of Transportation as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In general, the size, number of cells, and total power of lithium batteries allowed for transport may vary, as well as if the battery is permanently installed or traveling as a backup power source, and whether its traveling on a passenger or cargo flight.
Pressure Changes During Air Transport
Before transporting a sealed vehicle by air, always refer to the user manual and manufacturer instructions for Air Transport. All Underwater Vehicles need to be waterproof, which means the vehicle is sealed from water, but it’s also sealed from the external atmosphere, which may cause problems. Some ROVs are sealed with one atmosphere of air pressure at sea level, which must be vented during flight; other ROVs are vacuum sealed and won’t require venting for travel but will always require a vacuum to be drawn after internal vehicle maintenance is performed. Not adhering to manufacturer instructions can cause damage and leaks in either scenario, which could end a mission before it begins.
Always Ask for Accessible Accommodations
Whenever travel takes you away from home with a truck full of equipment, always make sure you book accessible accommodations. First floor hotel rooms are a must, so is picking a room adjacent to ramps nearest to parking areas. When planning ground transport, make sure your vehicle can accommodate all equipment cases you are carrying. Additionally, travel with bungee cords, cargo nets or ratchet straps to secure all cases from shifting.
Have a Work Space Prepared for Use
Whether you deploy an ROV from a boat, the shore, or a dock, your destination often isn’t built to accommodate the launch and operation of underwater vehicles. Before arrival, understand the work surfaces you will have available, and if they are inadequate, bring portable equipment such as tables, chairs, sun shades and work benches to stage your mission successfully. When working on boats, always plan for rough seas and secure your work surfaces accordingly.
Shipping Equipment Through Freight and Package Carriers
Extra care should be taken when shipping equipment in advance of your arrival. Freight carriers are adept at getting your cargo from point A to point B, but making sure it arrives intact often comes down to how well the freight is packaged and labeled by the shipper. Individual Hard Cases should have collapsible handles, wheels, inspection locks, tamper evident zip ties, and impact indicators to increase safe delivery rates. When possible, packing multiple smaller cases that are under 50 pounds can alleviate rough handling by carriers because each case can be handled by a single person. When the amount of gear increases, palletizing cargo becomes the most efficient option, which might mean stacking cases on a single pallet, or when security is an issue, custom pallet crates can add a second layer of protection. Before your hardware is shipped through a third party, always take photos before and after transport, and accurately declare its value to protect your investment.
With these tips and a little planning, you should encounter far less friction when transporting remotely operated vehicles to and from job locations. If you have additional transport tips, share them with us on Twitter @Aquabotix!