Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates numerous navigation locks and dams across the country. Age and lack of funds to maintain these structures has led to significant increases in unscheduled outages.

This article references a US Army Corp of Engineers Report article references a US Army Corp of Engineers Report

Problems with larger ROVs (from page 5)
“The operating team is generally pleased with the ROV. However, it has
some logistical shortcomings at this site. The large equipment trailer and
ROV require 1–2 hrs to deploy along the southwest pier, the land side of
MacArthur Lock that is the only portion of the facility accessible by
standard vehicles. To deploy elsewhere, the trailer must be picked up and
carried by a barge, often through a lock. Barge use is common for
maintenance at the Soo, but it slows deployment by an hour or so. Two
persons are needed to deploy and recover the 100-lb ROV. The protruding
nose of the pier walls can make recovery awkward. Also, interleaving ROV
deployment with vessel traffic is awkward: the ROV must be removed from
the lock or lock approach to allow ship passage owing to strong currents
from ship propellers.” View Report – Go to page 5

Solving Problems with the Use of Large ROVs (from pages 13 and 14)
“The Soo Locks plans to replace its current ROV with a smaller unit to allow
faster mobilization and easier interleaving with vessel traffic. Recent
improvements to video systems also make purchasing a new unit
attractive. The B/C ratio for ROV use would increase significantly for the
new unit because of its lower cost and greater utilization. The analysis
presented in Table 1 is thus conservative for ROV use at Soo Locks.”
View Report – Go to page 13
Note: Soo Locks has acquired a VideoRay Pro III XE GTO model since the report was issued.

Use of VideoRay MicroROV at Mobile District (from page 7)
“The Mobile District team uses the ROV about 10 times per year for visual
inspections of trash racks or stop-log sills to check for debris. In addition,
they conduct semi-annual inspections of a repair to the roof of a filling
conduit at Jamie Whitten Lock, annual inspections of District recreation
areas before season opening, and opportunity-based inspections of hydro
turbines, wicket gates, and lock conduits and wall joints. Vessel traffic is
light, so it is easy to deploy the ROV without interfering with shipping. The
team is very pleased with the performance of the ROV. Its small size allows
deployment through small openings, it avoids the need for hazardous
penetration dives in conduits using divers, and it is easy to deploy quickly
whenever opportunities arise. The Mobile District team has also used the
manipulator on their ROV to attach ropes to debris and remove it, thus
avoiding the use of divers for this relatively simple task.”
View Report – Goto page 7

Comparing MicroROVs to Larger Units (from pages 15 and 16)
“For most inspections, the valuable data gathered by ROVs derive from
their cameras. The ROV platform is primarily a device to maneuver “eyes”
underwater to inspect areas of concern. The operator and facility engineer
then make judgments pertaining to the nature of the concern and any
changes from previous inspections. High-quality cameras (video and
pictures) and easy-to-maneuver platforms are essential technologies.
Small, so-called “micro” ROVs satisfy these needs. Compared with larger
platforms, they also have the advantages of low capital cost, rapid
deployment, and two-person teams. Commercial vendors can supply
micro ROVs with initial costs below $30K. Most Corps navigation facilities
should own a micro ROV to conduct routine inspections; two or more
small locks in close proximity could potentially share one. Facilities or
Districts with specialized inspection needs, such as those with hydropower
plants, could justify acquiring ROVs adapted to these needs.
View Report – Go to page 15

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Other Articles of Interest:
Note an earlier article on microROV use at the Corps