VideoRay Lets Crew Do Research Instead of Handling Heavy, High-Voltage ROV
“That little thing sure is sexy,” was the comment made by one woman swimming laps in the pool at Louisiana State University while Mark Miller flew his new underwater robot through the waters. The same little ROV (remotely operated vehicle) that was used to explore inside the USS Arizona battleship is new equipment on Miller’s boat, which left Fourchon Port on May 10, 2002, for a 26-day cruise into the Gulf of Mexico and the mouth of the Mississippi.
The VideoRay micro ROV will have an important role as it sends back live video of the underwater world to the crew on deck and takes samples in the deep and silty waters. Miller, a research specialist who works for the Coastal Studies Institute of LSU, is studying the marine life that lives and thrives on the legs of oil and gas platforms. His blend of biology and geology has helped the largest oil and gas companies better understand what factors influence the environment around platforms.
Miller’s will be studying several abandoned oil and gas platforms and the largest artificial reef in the world to remove samples and observe barnacles, coral, and algae. According to Miller, scientists onboard will be gathering samples that might lead them to cures for diseases. His second task is a holistic survey of the natural reef shelf off of Louisiana, where the seabed is 220 feet deep. Out of reach for divers, the reef is host to a diversity of fish and coral. Here and at other platforms, Miller will be mapping the area and associating fish with the structure using sonar on the VideoRay. He plans to collect 24 hours of deep-water video using the VideoRay and hopes his research will help answer questions about what attracts and sustains the marine life on the legs.
What makes the 8-pound robot appealing to Miller is its size – about the dimensions of a boot box. The ROV that Miller usually puts to work on his cruises takes six people to operate, weighs 1000 pounds, and takes a crane to move around. “People are eager to go on trips with me, but the first question is always, “Is the ROV involved?” It is a lot of work,” says Miller. “With the VideoRay, people will want to be onboard. They can play with it. Not everyone on the boat is a diver, and the VideoRay gives him or her a chance to see what is beneath the platform – without getting wet. The portability of the VideoRay allows me to complete my objectives with less manpower and smaller vessels of opportunity that are less expensive. ”
The VideoRay ROV is remotely controlled from the surface. A tether up to 500 feet long is attached to a tiny, yellow submersible that has a video eye. The sub gathers underwater video through its camera eye, which is viewed on the surface on a TV monitor. Driving the VideoRay is about as easy as using a video game, so a specially trained ROV pilot is not needed. The VideoRay Pro II that Miller purchased includes a manipulator, Desert Star positioning system, and Imagenex 851 scanning sonar, and a head mounted display. The unit, including spare parts, personal delivery, and training was just over $50,000. VideoRays are used throughout the world for surveillance, security, exploration, scientific research, recreation, and inspections of all types.