In the post-9/11 era, the security of sea and river ports became an issue of great and pressing public
concern. Thanks to the efforts of multiple layers of government and private security, no major terrorist
attacks at US ports have occurred since that dark day. However, port security remains a critical area for national and local law enforcement, and it is an area where remote operated vehicles (ROVs) such as the Endura 100 SLE can make major contributions.
There are 360 commercial sea and river ports in the United States alone, and those ports handle
approximately one-fifth of the global maritime trade. These ports handle more than 70,000 large ships
(and an innumerable plethora of smaller craft) annually, carrying more than two billion tons of cargo in
and out of the United States. Securing and ensuring the safety of that much traffic is a job of stupendous
ROVs can help with this task in a number of important ways.
The underwater physical infrastructure of the port itself, as well as the submerged hulls of vessels using
the port, are key areas for port security concerns. However, visual inspection of these zones is often
problematic. Ports are highly-trafficked areas, which creates safety concerns for human divers. In
addition, the visibility conditions beneath ships and around piers are often exceptionally poor. Silt
movement from tidal flows and bottom stirring from vehicle traffic can make it almost impossible for a
human diver to see.
ROVs like the Endura 100 SLE ROV can be equipped with 360-degree scanning sonar, allowing the
ROV to see things where a human diver would be helpless. In addition, ROVs can engage in much longer
dives than humans. This allows exhaustive search scenarios that would be extremely expensive if human
divers were deployed.
In situations where visibility is better, the Endura 100 SLE has the ability to record 1080p
high-quality video. This permits the ROV to be deployed as an eyes-on monitoring station at a fixed
point or along a patrol route for hours at a time, again far exceeding the capabilities of a human diver.
Underwater surveillance and monitoring missions are thus made much more practical and affordable.
Vehicle hull inspections are an area where the positioning capabilities of Aquabotix ROVs can provide a
unique edge. Most hull inspections do not attempt exhaustive coverage of the entire hull area, because
this is impractical and would take too long – instead, inspections focus on a number of fixed high-value
points of interest. The Endura 100 SLE has advanced positioning software which makes programming
a search of these known points practical and straightforward.
ROVs are capable of carrying out advanced port security missions even without being controlled by
highly-paid professionals. Anyone can learn the basics of “flying” a Endura 100 SLE in just a few hours
of practice, and mastery takes only a few days. In addition, the low weight and easy handling
characteristics of the Endura 100 SLE mean that a single operator can carry the unit to the point of
launch, control it throughout the mission, and retrieve it single-handedly, keeping costs to the bare
Port security workers can control the Endura 100 SLE through a simple and intuitive iPad application,
or using a wireless handheld controller. In addition, the video and sonar data produced by the ROV is
stored on-board – no additional recording devices are required. Date and time stamps on the media
make the use of ROV-acquired data easy to document for law enforcement purposes.
Perhaps the most critical contribution an ROV can make to port security efforts comes from the fact
that, in the worst-case scenario, the ROV is expendable in a way that a human diver never will be. Port
security often involves investigating strange objects, which could easily be explosive devices or even
worse. An investigation of such an underwater device using human divers is risky at best and may have a
tragic outcome. ROVs can fearlessly investigate such threats with the worst-case scenario being merely
the loss of some metal and plastic. This allows port security to aggressively investigate suspicious objects
in a way that simply can’t happen relying on human divers alone.
Port security will never be an easy task, and the problems facing port security forces are likely to grow along with the volume of business done at the port. Every new problem inspires the creation of new tools, however. ROVs like the Aquabotix Endura 100 SLE can expand the ability of port security forces to keep their facilities and visitors safe, at a reasonable cost.