The Magazine for Underwater Professionals

Jan/Feb 2016

INDUSTRY NEWS - EQUIPMENT & TECHNOLOGY

ROV dives frozen fjord

Planet Ocean, UK, reports it has supplied a Deep Trekker, Canada, DTG2 Worker ROV for a research trip to the Arctic undertaken by Dr Alex Nimmo Smith and Peter Ganderton of the Plymouth University, UK, Marine Physics Research Group.

 

The ROV was successfully operated through ice holes in water of minus-two degrees Celsius, with tasks including the inspection of other instruments and providing a visual survey of the underside of the ice, according to Planet Ocean.

 

“A combination of slight positive buoyancy and the mounting of the optional crawler wheels on the top of the unit enabled stable driving along the underside of the ice in the frozen fjord,” the company said.

 

It added: “The small self-contained, self-powered system was ideal for the intended operations. Since the team were operating close to the minus-five degrees Celsius minimum, the DTG-2 was kept ‘warm’ in the water between deployments as the air temperature dropped to minus-26 degrees Celsius. A grabber arm was also taken for recovery operations but fortunately was not required.” 

Fifteen years between subsea battery changes

WFS Technologies, UK, reports it has developed novel, proprietary battery management system technology which enables the battery life of subsea wireless instrumentation and control systems to be extended to up to 15 years.

 

“Seatooth Endure technology integrates this powerful battery management technology with reliable wireless data connectivity to deliver sensor, monitoring and control systems which have an extended operating life, facilitating deployment in relatively inaccessible or sealed environments,” said WFS.

 

The company added that the benefits of extended battery systems in subsea asset deployment include the removal of the cost and complexity of standard six- to 12-month interval battery swaps and the permanent deployment of sensors in buried or inaccessible locations.

 

Paul Tooms, WFS Advisory Board member and former chief engineer at BP, said: “WFS battery management technology is potentially game changing for the subsea industry. It creates the possibility that sensors can be installed subsea to monitor assets for a number of years without the need for expensive ROV intervention.”

DOE announces release of latest observation ROV

Deep Ocean Engineering (DOE), USA, reports the release of the latest addition to its family of observation-class ROVs with a shared architecture and digital control system, the Phantom T5.

 

The Silicon Valley, California-based company said standard T5 features include: full HD video with 20x optical zoom; 300-metre depth rating (500-metre optional); LED lights; user accessible power/telemetry bulkheads and open frame architecture; resilient polypropylene chassis; and high performance magnetically coupled thrusters providing “the highest thrust to weight ratio of any vehicle in its class”.

 

“The T5’s open-frame architecture makes mechanical integrations a breeze while dedicated expansion bulkheads giving both power and telemetry are provided as standard. Also, an optional tool skid simply bolts on with any of the customer’s sensors or tools plugging into one of those bulkheads for nearly limitless, task specific, expansion possibilities,” said John Bergman, DOE’s vice president of engineering.

 

Optional Greensea, USA, sensors and software can also be integrated for autonomous and semi-autonomous navigation and control. Greensea president Ben Kinnaman said: “The DOE guys are real professionals. Their engineering is top-tier and we were happy to work with such a strong, resilient and rugged vehicle. We know that integrating any of our navigation, control and autonomy packages on their ROVs will result in really high performance and increased capabilities.”

Hydroid enables autonomous launch and recovery of an AUV

Hydroid, the USA-based manufacturer of marine robotic systems, has announced the release of Line Capture Line Recovery (LCLR), a self-contained module that is initially offered on Hydroid’s REMUS 600 autonomous underwater vehicle for the purpose of autonomous launch and recovery.

 

“We designed the LCLR to be a first-of-its-kind system that will make the launch and recovery process completely autonom-ous,” said Hydroid president Duane Fotheringham. “This will enable easier vehicle recovery and increase operational flexibility. As industry leaders, it is our goal to continue to progress autonomous technologies, which is illustrated with the development of this innovative product.”

 

A vertical line is deployed in the water with a transponder attached to the end of the line. When the vehicle is commanded to dock, the LCLR software autonomously homes the vehicle to approach the transponder. The vehicle navigates autonomously toward the transponder and attaches itself to the line above the transponder. The line and the attached vehicle are then recovered on a vessel such as an unmanned surface vehicle or any other platform. The vessel may be stationary or moving during the capture process.

 

The LCLR module uses a linear digital ultra-short baseline acoustic array for homing the vehicle to the transponder. The final capture is assisted by articulated arms for capturing the line after the vehicle reaches it. Upon capture, a latch mechanism attaches the vehicle to the line. An optical sensor is used to confirm the completion of the vehicle’s capture and initiate its recovery.

 

During the approach of the vehicle to the transponder, the system graphical user interface (GUI) can send updates on the transponder position via acoustic messages to the vehicle. The GUI may be configured to transmit the position update to the vehicle automatically or manually by the operator. The LCLR system also works for moving captures, using GPS to determine the vessel’s position.

Seatronics successfully activates world's first PAN disrupter subsea with Predator ROV Elite system
  • Predator ROV Elite system

Aberdeen, UK-based Seatronics reports it has successfully triggered a percussion actuated non-electric (PAN) disrupter, subsea, with its Predator ROV, whilst maintaining station keeping during a live fire mission – a world first, according to the company.

 

Manufactured and developed by Seatronics, the Predator ROV has been designed to function in all market sectors “due to its compact and portable structure, ensuring easy deployment and operation”.

 

Seatronics established the Predator ROV Elite system as a bomb squad capable improvised explosive device (IED) ROV specifically designed to perform demonstrations in conjunction with Great Eastern Group (GEG), USA, for the US maritime bomb squads. A demonstration of the unit was conducted last year in response to requirements outlined by America’s bomb squad community and the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach Port Dive Operations Group (PDOG).

 

Euan Mackay, vice president – sales for Seatronics US operation, said: “Feedback received from the demonstration proved to be very positive, categorising the Predator ROV Elite System as a very capable ROV with great potential for underwater counter IED projects. The attendees recognised the system’s power, effective station keeping ability and low cost basis as key beneficial features.

 

“The Predator’s ability to hold station was made possible with the use of the SeeByte (UK) CoPilot software, which was developed in conjunction with Seatronics and refined to address the specific needs of the FBI and PDOG teams. The trials and client comments enabled the Seatronics and GEG team to identify areas for ROV enhancement to capitalise on the functionality for counter IED missions, including lowering the overall system weight, improving mobility as well as successfully integrating the PAN disruptor function onto the unit.”

 

The initial demonstration led to an invitation for Seatronics to demonstrate the Predator ROV Elite System at the Underwater Post Blast Investigators Course in Bluffton, South Carolina, USA, hosted by the FBI Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Unit (C-IEDU), along with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) Bomb Squad.

 

Derek Donaldson, vice president of global operations, Seatronics, said: “The Predator ROV Elite System performed flawlessly, aiding the dive teams in finding post IED explosions debris in near black-water conditions.

 

“The capability demonstration culminated with the Predator successfully live-firing a PAN disruptor subsea, while maintaining full control using the vehicle’s SeeByte CoPilot system. The Predator is the first ROV in its class to achieve this prestigious accolade.”

Miko introduces electric drill and fastening system
  • Artist's impression of the Miko Fix drill being used to fit a FlexShape iPatch 2

A new electric underwater drill and fastening system that can penetrate and join two metal plates up to 22 millimetres thick in one action has been developed by Miko Marine of Norway.

 

The battery-powered Miko Fix drill can be operated by divers at any depth down to 50 metres. It is mounted in a specially designed stand that is clamped to the work piece by high-power permanent magnets. When in use the drill is loaded with a unique Miko bolt, the end of which is shaped and hardened to function as the drill bit. This cuts through the metal to be joined and enables its upper end to function as a self-tapping bolt that continues to penetrate so that it is screwed through the pieces that become securely joined. Using the Miko Fix system two steel plates each 10 millimetres thick can be drilled and joined in approximately one minute. When the bolt has been driven home the magnetic clamps are released enabling the process to be repeated at a new location.

 

The new drills and their stands weigh six kilograms in water and have been praised by Norwegian dive company Kambo Marina which tested the system during its development.

 

“We used it to fix an anode to a steel plate and were very impressed with its efficiency and ease of use,” said general manager Ketil Svelland. “It is bound to have an impact upon the professional diving industry as it will increase the options available to us when we are doing repair work underwater. We are very proud to have been the first divers to use a new tool that is likely to be seen everywhere in a few years.”

 

The new Miko Fix system can be used for a variety of repair and construction tasks underwater although it was developed specifically for use with the Miko FlexiShape patch. These are manufactured by Miko to provide a temporary water-tight seal that can be used to close-off damage to a ship’s hull and make it seaworthy for sailing to a dry dock for permanent repair. The patch is positioned over the hole by divers and held tightly against the hull by aluminium strips.

 

In the past these have been fixed in place by a hand-held Miko gun which can fire rivets through up to 25-millimetre steel plate to create a water tight seal. Unfortunately, the small explosive charges used to drive in the rivets are challenging to transport because of safety regulations. This limits their use internationally so Miko designers invented the new drill-based system so that it can do the same job but without the transport restrictions faced by the gun.

HiPAP release
  • Illustration shows the HiPAP 502 in use for ROV positioning

The third generation of Kongsberg Maritime’s HiPAP acoustic underwater positioning and navigation system is now available.

 

“Smaller, lighter, more durable and accurate than ever, HiPAP 502 sets new standards for subsea position reference systems. It is designed to support the performance and safety of offshore support, survey, subsea construction and scientific vessel operations,” said the Norway-based company.

Minister opens ocean robot centre
  • The Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson (left), is shown a Slocum underwater glider at the opening

A £3 million centre to develop new technology for the emerging UK marine robotics sector was officially opened by the UK Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, late last year.

 

Addressing some of the leading figures in marine technology development, the minister said: “I was honoured to open the new Marine Robotics Innovation Centre at the UK’s world-class National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. The UK is leading the way in marine science and this new facility will help to put wind in the sails of our marine industry.”

 

Funded through the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), from the science minister’s ‘Eight Great Technologies’ initiative, the National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Marine Robotics Innovation Centre will be a hub for businesses developing autonomous platforms, with novel sensors that will be used to cost-effectively capture data from the world’s oceans.


 

Professor Ed Hill, the NOC’s executive director, said: “The launch of the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre is a very important development, because it is all about turning great science into great innovation for the benefit of the UK economy.

 

Autonomous measurement systems for the ocean have grown out of demands for frontier science in extreme environments. Much like space science, oceanography too creates spin-offs which bring technologies back into more everyday use for a wide range of applications.


 

IMPROVE

“Marine Autonomous Systems offer to transform the work of many sectors, including environmental monitoring. For example, they will improve data collection for weather and climate prediction, for defense, and for the emerging needs of offshore energy and other industries.

 

“Not only are there multiple applications but the UK also has a diverse, vibrant sector of small technology companies able to take the innovations to wider markets. We will be working alongside several of these companies in the centre and engaging with the associate members, who are likely to be major users of the technology developed there.”

 

There was a programme of tours, events and seminars throughout the day, given by business leaders, engineers and academics associated with the marine autonomous systems sector.

 

The Marine Robotics Innovation Centre has been operational since the summer of 2015. UK companies Planet Ocean, ASV and SeeByte have already moved into the centre, which provides office and testing facilities along with access to specialist instrumentation.
The NOC has been working with leading people from industry and academia in the development of vehicles, battery design and operational procedures. Advance training for PhD engineers coordinated by the NOC has also recently been announced.

LinkQuest expands product range with new echosounder

LinkQuest, USA, reports it has added a state-of-the-art multibeam echosounder to its family of products.

 

“The EchoSweep 300 multibeam echosounder is a high-resolution, highly robust and cost-effective swath bathymetric system for mapping of seafloor, inland waterways and reservoirs,” the company said.

 

The system is capable of reaching up to 280 metres in range with 140 beams. It operates at 260KHz and has a swath coverage of 140 degrees.

 

“The EchoSweep 300 maps the seafloor accurately by a sweep of very narrow acoustic beams. It can map the seafloor faster and in more detail than a single-beam echosounder, thereby significantly reducing the user’s survey time and cost,” said LinkQuest.

JW Fishers ROVs now supplied with LED lights
  • Comparison of quartz halogen lights (left) to the new LEDs

USA-based underwater search equipment specialist JW Fishers reports its SeaOtter-2 and SeaLion-2 ROVs will now come standard with LED lights on the front and rear of the underwater vehicle.

 

The two front lights have been upgraded from 100-watt quartz halogen bulbs to high intensity LEDs, each producing 2200 lumens, significantly more illumination than the old style bulbs. The intensity of the LED lights can be increased or decreased with the push of a button on the surface controller.

 

“The new lighting system employs a single-source chip-on-board LED which emits light from a single plane, eliminating problems previously experienced with the multi-LED type light source,” said the company. “The colour temperature of the new lights is 5000 kelvin; very close to the 5500 kelvin of natural daylight, and within the recommended range for shooting underwater video.

 

“Colours are illuminated more accurately with the LEDs than with the warm 3500 kelvin temperature of quartz halogen lights. The new lighting enhances picture quality and maintains a constant colour temperature throughout the entire range of illumination intensity, something not possible with the halogen lights.” 

 

The firm added that another key advantage of the LED lights is their lifespan. “Quartz halogen lights require regular replacement and can be damaged if the ROV is dropped or takes a hard shock. The LED lights last virtually as long as the ROV, rarely if ever needing replacement.”

 

 

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