BOULDER CREEK, Calif. — Inspection-class underwater drones, also called remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), can now be operated even more remotely — from thousands of miles away — and by multiple users, via web-browser-enabled systems. Aquabotix says it is the first to develop live remote-control technology for inspection-class ROVs, typically used for situation assessment and security, scientific exploration, search and rescue, and environmental monitoring.
Multiple users in different locations can pilot a single Aquabotix Endura ROV, Hybrid ARV autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)/tethered ROV, or AquaLens Connect networked underwater camera system using computers, phones, or iPads and the Live Remote Control browser-based app.
For example, an operator in a head office in Norway could control an ROV in a fishnet at an aquaculture farm off the coast of Chile, said company CTO Durval Tavares.
The technology also lets different branches or global offices share data in real time, said Ted Curley, chief development officer.
Aquabotix’s Live Remote Control browser-based app makes real-time data sharing possible for its remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and networked camera systems, as in this aquaculture example.
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Operators using the app assume one of three roles, each with distinct privileges: view, control, or administration. “Right now, the best practice is to only have one control user at a time,” said Tavares. “This will be enforced by the system in the future. Passing primary control from one user to another is also in R&D.”
Advances in aerial unmanned systems usually outstrip those in underwater systems by several years because the underwater environment is so much harsher. Many ROV suppliers focus more on keeping the electronics separated from the environment — that is, on marine or mechanical advancements — than on other advancements, such as in electronics or automation, said Tavares.
The Aquabotix Hybrid for shallow-water tasks (up to 300 meters’ depth rating) can be operated either in untethered autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) mode at up to 8 to 10 nautical miles or in tethered, remotely operated vehicle (ROV) mode.
— Ann R. Thryft is Industrial Control Designline editor at EE Times.