Stealthy ROV Keeps Divers Out of Danger

In Port Bustamante, Jamaica last year, three divers inspected the hull of vessels as part of the anti-narcotic procedure were killed to prevent them from investigating and discovering contraband. To cut the threat to divers and their families, Security Administrators Limited invested in VideoRay ROVs to begin diver-less inspections. Operated by one person on the dock or deck of a boat, the eight-lb. ROV (remotely operated vehicle) now inspects vessels sailing from Jamaica to the U.S.

The submersible vehicle, which is connected to a 500-ft. tether, is outfitted with a video camera that relays video from underwater to a monitor. VideoRay used in conjunction with scanning sonar and GPS can quickly and precisely locate and identify plumes of divers or targets.

A manipulator arm that can be mounted to the submersible can pick up objects up to of 100 lbs./50kgs.

Steve van Meter, a Hazardous Duty Robotics Specialist from NASA/Kennedy Space Center, has worked on three missions with the U.S. Customs Contraband Enforcement team at Port Canaveral, Fla., to inspect ships for which the U.S.

Customs had intelligence of carrying drugs. In the absence of dive teams to perform the searches, the VideoRay was sent into the bilge areas, the ballast tanks, and then on a complete survey of the bottom of the ship. During his survey of the bottom of the vessel, van Meter was looking for unusual spots and new welds on the barnacle-encrusted surface.

He checked the prop shaft and bow thruster for places a package or parasitic devise could be stowed, and was also able to check the entire bottom and verify the propeller shaft condition without ever getting in the water. Van Meter has also worked with the Brevard County and Orange Country Sheriffs office dive teams to teach them how to use the VideoRay to search docks, piers, and ships.

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Other stories from September 2002 issue


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