Deep Sea Vehicles
Global Oceans 6000-meter ROVs and Towed Survey Vehicle
In mid-2020 Global Oceans consummated a donation from Oceaneering International, Inc., Houston, TX, USA of three deep-sea vehicles rated to 6000 meters of operational depth: the Magellan 725 ROV, the Ocean Discovery ROV, and the Ocean Explorer 6000 Towed Sonar System, together with a complement of infrastructure to deploy these assets including 34-ton winches, umbilicals, vehicle depressors, HPU power systems, LARS, storage systems, and operations and workshop vans. These vehicles are deployed as two-body systems with depressors, and all have been effectively deployed with both a dedicated LARS and with a conventional A-Frame crane.
Global Oceans commissioned Oceaneering to conduct an extensive engineering, design, and manufacturing study and proposal, now completed, to rebuild and convert the two ROVs into advanced, dedicated scientific research platforms. The relaunched ROVs will be designed for ease of maintenance in the field, and will offer a complement of suction samplers, mini box cores, push cores, sample storage, high-resolution video, extensible lighting, CTD, and water sampling capacity. The depressors will be fitted with battery arrays for auxiliary power at depth.
Design strategy for the ROV rebuilds involves a combination of built-in and modular systems that are adaptive to each dive and expedition. Modularity and flexibility is fundamental to Global Oceans’ approach for mobilizing MARV research vessels and for deploying ROV and other technologies.
Global Oceans and Oceaneering have also reached an agreement for Oceaneering to contract for operating Global Oceans’ 6000-meter ROVs globally on a project basis. ROV pilots from Oceaneering’s highly successful Global Explorer (GEX) science ROV program, with over 20 years of experience working with scientists on ROV missions, will operate the Global Oceans’ vehicles.
For the Ocean Explorer 6000 towed vehicle, a manufacturer of advanced undersea systems has completed a proposal for rebuilding this system for high maneuverability at depth and rapid towed turn-around, with a modified exoskeleton; integrated with precision control and fault management systems, Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES), GPS, high-resolution cameras, sensors, and other systems. Initiation of ROV and towed system upgrades is anticipated to begin in 2021.
Multibeam sonar and high-resolution cameras installed on the Ocean Explorer 6000 will provide Global Oceans with a capacity to generate high-resolution bathymetry and wide-area visualization at depth, deployed from low-cost offshore service vessels mobilized as scientific MARV platforms. The new Ocean Explorer 6000 will support several Global Oceans projects including the Global Seamounts Project and the SASx Arctic Baseline Project.
The re-launched 6000-meter Magellan 725 ROV and Ocean Discovery ROV will also contribute significantly to several Global Oceans projects and all vehicles will be made available to the international ocean science community for research.
Global Oceans is also launching an Advanced Projects program to explore the development of specialized modular scientific tools for deployment on the ROVs. Initial projects include a system for the deep-sea retrieval and storage of “piezophilic” microbial samples in water or sediments for transport to the surface and into on-board labs under continuous ambient conditions of high hydrostatic pressure and temperature.
Another early-phase project is exploring the development of a deep-sea, high-powered microscope. More about these projects are discussed in the Project Highlights section in Advanced Projects: ROV-Deployed Instrumentation here.