Tag Archives: operations

What is an ROV?

If the ocean is so unfathomably wide and deep, how can scientists possibly hope to do any more than dip our noses beneath the waves to explore? Luckily, engineers have adapted machines to reach areas of the ocean that would never be possible with a human alone. This is where remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, become essential tools of discovery.

The ROV Hercules travels alongside a sixgill shark, with the support of its tow sled, Argos*

To use an ROV, three pieces of technology are crucial. The first is the ship. This is where the scientists are conducting their research, and where the ROV pilot maneuvers the vehicle. The second piece is the tow sled. This piece of technology is used to absorb all of the movement associated with waves and currents, allowing the ROV to be stable. Lastly, is the ROV itself. The ROV and sled are tethered to their research vessel via fiber optic cabling. Through this system, the pilot can maneuver the ROV safely from the ship.

ROVs Deep Discoverer (right) and its tow sled Seirios (left) are prepared for another day of exploration. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas.

ROVs are designed to withstand the extreme cold and pressure of the deep ocean without malfunction. They are typically either colored yellow or white to stand out against the blues of the ocean, and are built out of materials that are resistant to many atmospheres of compression. ROVs are also balanced with the dense components on the underside, and the flotation portion on top, to offer more stability as it traverses the deep ocean. ROVs can also be equipped with a variety of tools to help them explore efficiently. Since the ocean continually gets darker the deeper one goes, all ROVs are equipped with extremely bright lights. Each ROV has a few high definition cameras that allows us to watch the ROV. They also have two lasers that are used for scale, generally they are 10 cm apart. Most vehicles have biofeedback manipulator arms that are used to gather samples. Some vehicles have a sample box to take bring samples up to the surface for more research.

The Deep Discoverer takes a close look at a rock outcropping. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas

These incredible machines are vital for scientists to explore parts of the ocean that would not otherwise be seen by human eyes. Tune into the live video feeds below to see ROVs in action, along with more exciting content!

Okeanos Explorer Live Stream

E/V Nautilus Live Stream

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Article by Remy Filiaggi

Featured image: 
The ROV Hercules views a shipwreck. Image curiosity of the Ocean Exploration Trust.