Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles

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vips041 VideoRay Annual Conference in Key Largo Launches Wireless VideoRay and Brings Together Micro-ROV Users – Training, Stories, and Technology Were Focus of Event for Users in Science, Law Enforcement, Offshore, and Education.

Key Largo , FL , December 1, 2004—The VideoRay International Partners Symposium in Key Largo , Florida , was an international underwater technology event, with 90 attendees from 15 countries learning what’s new with the 8-pound underwater robot. With VideoRay users from science, law enforcement, homeland security, offshore, engineering, and education in attendance, the mid-November event featured realistic training sessions, expert presentations, and in-water demonstrations. Many attendees came equipped with their VideoRays, which were tuned up and accessorized by an on-site maintenance team.

The Marine Resources Development Foundation (MRDF) and Jules’ Undersea Lodge lagoon hosted hands-on, in-water ROV training and demonstrations of new technology. Ten representatives of the US Coast Guard Marine Safety and Security Teams were in attendance from California, Hawaii, New York, Washington state, and Washington, DC. The MSSTs, deployed specifically for Homeland Security, simulated ROV harbor search/recovery and homeland security scenarios in the MarineLab and Pennekamp State Park lagoons.

VideoRay’s new PC Pilot excited attendees who test drove the new system for the VideoRay Pro III and Deep Blue models. This system allows VideoRays to be operated using a PC and joystick or game controller. With a completely customizable interface, PC Pilot works with wirelessly over the internet, freeing the operator from the confines of the control box.

Chris Olstad, habitat operations director for MarineLab, commented, “The most intriguing aspect of the whole experience was remotely flying the VideoRay using a laptop computer with a wireless internet connection. A highly integrated video game controller moved the ROV almost intuitively. Head-mounted display goggles provided a totally “immersive” undistracted visualization experience.”

Olstad remarked that the technology has “far reaching implications for the next generation of marine scientists, technicians, and engineers.” He hopes to integrate the wireless VideoRay into the MRDF MarineLab Habitat student/aquanaut experience (Projects SEA SQUID and Remora) and the MarineLab student offshore experience.

Top rated speaker sessions included a presentation by Larry Murphy, chief of the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center , who showed how his group has used the VideoRay to explore a submerged B-29 bomber and survey the USS Arizona, where teams are at present doing a more scientific research on the sunken WWII battleship. Steve van Meter of NASA/Kennedy Space Center received high marks for his story of using the VideoRay in his successful mission to find a thruster lost from the Space Shuttle simulation aircraft.

Dave Phillips and Tom Crossmon, of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, captivated the audience with a presentation called “Body Recoveries Under Ice,” which documented the department’s forensic investigations with the VideoRay in cold waters. The pair used the VideoRay to locate drowning victims when dive missions were unsuccessful and to spare divers from the hazards of spending long durations in freezing water and boggy situations. The VideoRay also performed conclusive forensic investigations of the sites before authorities removed the bodies.

Philips and Crossmon also instructed attending authorities on how to build and manage an ROV operations team to boost the ability of local public safety authorities and first responders to react to threats, crimes, and accidents. The session complemented a Grant Writing Workshop that preceded the conference, and advised agencies on how to procure Homeland Security grants.

The most raved-about video was shown in a session called “Moose ‘Stalking’ and Other Adventures of the Isle Royale Institute.” Mark Gleason , the institute’s director at Michigan Technological University , captured hilarious encounters between the VideoRay and a moose being studied in the wild.

“The VIPS event allowed close interaction between the VideoRay development teams and the VideoRay users,” said Dave Stinebring of Penn State University . “Specific needs of the users could be addressed and incorporated into the long range development plan.”

“Networking with other VideoRay users is the most valuable part of VIPS,” says Steve van Meter of NASA/Kennedy Space Center. “I picked up several good ideas; one is the perfect solution to a project I have using sonar to image a large intake pipe.”

“This year’s conference in Key Largo was such a positive experience regarding the convenience and ease with which I could view both equipment and the companies both using and manufacturing the latest and greatest in new technology for our very different fields,” said Rich Faulk of Above and Below H20. ”The on-site hands-on testing was by far the best experience of any conferences I have attended.”

“I was able to meet with several people who had similar goals for the use of ROVs,” said Mark Gleason of Michigan Technological University . “I will be starting a few new projects because of those conversations, and my new contacts will result in more activity for me and my VideoRay. It was a great location to spend some time working with a very useful underwater tool.”

“Attending VIPS was especially valuable to me because I had the opportunity to discuss the use of VideoRay with sonar in narrow spaces with other users,” said Henning Føsker of Norconsult, whose session on the same topic was also highly rated by attendees.

VideoRay ROVs are the smallest, most portable, and most responsive remotely operated vehicles available for use in underwater environments. Weighing just 8 pounds and starting at $5995 USD, VideoRays are used for underwater surveys, offshore inspections, search and rescue, homeland defense, science, fish farming, and a range of applications.