Exploring the oceans: the technology of ROVs

Remotely operated vehicles, commonly known as ROVs, are unmanned submersibles used for underwater research, construction and industry maintenance. They are tethered to a control and power station above the water using bundled cables capable of data and energy transference, with manipulator arms of varying strengths capable of performing complex operations. As unmanned vehicles they can be used for a wide range of underwater tasks where human crews are unsafe or unviable, making them well suited to a great number of applications − both scientific and commercial.

the technology of ROVs

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Commercial and research applications

As previously stated, tethers comprised of bundled cables allow the ROVS to be controlled and enable them to relay different types of recorded information, including visual data from cameras for navigation, seismometers to record and observe seismic events, and hydrophones for acoustic events. These types of apparatus connected to ROVs, along with the aforementioned manipulator arms, have helped to make them a vital part of the gas and oil industry, where they are utilised for a great range of purposes from site and seabed exploration to oil rig maintenance and construction. ROVs are also used in the construction and maintenance or monitoring of many submerged or partly underwater structures, such as dams.

ROVs have even been used to collect large materials. As an example, there are types of remote underwater vehicles designed specifically for quickly cutting and harvesting trees that have been submerged, affixing airbags to the trunks so that they float up to the surface.

Niche development

Even though technological advances such as the continuing development and miniaturisation of components such as toroidal transformers have led to the diversification of ROVs and a marked increase in the available sizes and capabilities through improved power efficiency, their relative expense means that the best vehicles are still prohibitively expensive for all but the largest companies and research groups − military applications aside. As a result, components such as toroidal transformers by Siga and other companies remain in relatively high demand from such niche industries.

Due to the lack of the need for a human crew, remotely operated underwater vehicles can be used to carry out all manner of operations. They are used for both commercial and scientific ends and in a great variety of environments, including undersea volcanoes and areas of high geological instability.

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