The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

May/Jun 2016


Camper comfort for freezing Falcon team

Camper van provides comfort and convenience for dam inspection in the French Alps

The hand operated winch set for lowering the ROV

Working in -10ºC high up in the French Alps, the Jifmar team found that the most comfortable and convenient way to inspect the Tignes Dam was to load their Saab Seaeye, UK, Falcon ROV system and themselves into a recreational camper van.

Jean-Baptiste Loiselet, ROV operations manager at Jifmar, the French offshore service and dam inspection company, explains why the camper makes an ideal mobile base station: “The Falcon is small enough to easily mobilise and we can contain the whole system and ourselves on board the camper for working in remote locations without facilities, and at the end of the day just stow-up and head to a nearby hotel for the night.”

  • The camper van ready to head for the French Alps
  • Part of the control centre inside the vehicle

The mission, just completed by the Jifmar team, was to assess the integrity of the dam wall and structures such as water inlets, and measure the amount of sedimentation at the bottom of the wall.

To achieve the tasks they integrated a wide range of equipment onto the Falcon system. This included a Sound Metrics, USA, ARIS Explorer 3000 sonar for extra fine 2D imaging and crack detection, an acoustic positioner and an Ethernet HD camera with integrated lasers for scale reference.


Loiselet says the Falcon is small but its intelligent systems architecture and five powerful thrusters can handle a wide range of large and sophisticated equipment. “Its fibre optic capability gives us unlimited connection possibilities. We built a small interface pod with a 24-volt power supply and two Ethernet bulkheads, one for the ARIS or BlueView [BlueView, USA, BV5000 sonar], and one for the camera and other equipment – and we still had spare power and spare RS232 bi-directional channels and Ethernet connections,” he says.

Jifmar, with support from Saab Seaeye, also designed and created added buoyancy in the shape of an enhanced fairing to provide extra payload ready for fitting a skid beneath the Falcon to carry the ARIS Explorer with its tilt and roll assembly – along with any other systems needed.

  • Lowering the Falcon

Freezing temperatures could have been a problem, as every time the ROV was pulled from the water ice froze over it, but Loiselet knew the thrusters would keep working as they have magnetic couplings rather than moving seals.

“In thousands of hours of dive time, Seaeye thruster technology has proved to be the most reliable in the ROV world,” he says.

He also praises the versatility of the Falcon for its easy deployment, both offshore and in the dam and hydro industry for inspection and survey operations, including long tunnel work. “Along with all its capabilities, it’s still small enough to launch from a hand-operated winch, and be sent into difficult-to-access locations, down small pipes and along 1100 metres of tunnel,” he says.

  • Support vehicle and boat at the dam





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