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Using ROVs in Deep Sea Exploration

Category: General Article

Back to Creep into the DEEPEND

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summary: Dr. Tamara Frank discusses some of the most valuable and exciting tech used by deep-sea explorers — remotely-operated vehicles or ROVs.

Many of you have questions about ROVs and if we are using them. Though DEEPEND is not using an ROV, it is an important research tool for deep-sea exploration. Many of the DEEPEND Team members has used or uses ROVs in other deep-sea research projects.

R-O-V stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle and they come in all sizes and shapes. Currently, the DEEPEND team is using a similar piece of technology called a “glider,” which is an autonomous underwater vehicle or AUV. The major difference here, of course, is that ROVs are piloted by someone in real time, while AUVs are programmed to do certain functions and then operate without a tether until those functions are completed. You can see images of our glider as part of Matthew Johnston’s blog on Team Data.

Video: ROVs At Work In The Deep Sea

The ROV is tethered – connected – to the ship with a very very very long cable. Think of it as a super long extension cord that connects it to the ship. A crane lifts the ROV off the deck of the ship and lowers it into the water.

Depending on the research, ROVs might explore the middle of the ocean or the ocean floor. ROVS take photographs and video in the light (that we provide) and also photograph in the dark. Some ROVs can collect samples and live animals.

With a name of “Remotely Operated…” you might have already guessed that the science team operates the ROV from a distance. The ROV is controlled by pilots from the control room. We, the Science Team, watch the action and videos of what the ROV is seeing or doing and, when needed direct the pilot. The pilots control rom the ship, sort of like you can control the television from across the room. Of course, an ROV is much more sophisticated and complicated than the television, but you get the idea.

This ROV has robotic arm we can manipulate to gently collect organisms. The engineering of this kind of technology is very important. If you like to tinker and build things, maybe ROV design is for you!

The Oceanscape Network has an entire page about ROVs! It includes information and two fun videos that explain what ROVs are, how they work, and follows a group of teen boys as they compete in an Oregon competition with an ROV they engineered. You can see these materials by clicking here.

Talk to you soon.

Dr. Tamara Frank, Team Crustacean and Deep-Sea Explorer

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