R&D Center conducts analysis of Remotely Operated Vehicles during
By Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert
Being a multi-mission agency with a diverse range of responsibilities,
the Coast Guard relies on a wide variety of technologies to do its job.
The Coast Guard Research and Development Center evaluated the capabilities
of many new technologies for Coast Guard use during its trip to the
Arctic aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy this summer, but there was
at least one device with which the Coast Guard was intimately familiar.
an instructor from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., and
1st Class Cadet Gabriel Patterson, prepare to test a Seabotix LBV200
submersible remotely operated vehicle aboard the Coast Guard Cutter
Healy in Seward, Alaska, Aug. 7, 2014. Picture: USCG
Operated Vehicles have been used by the Coast Guard for years as diver-replacement
tools. The submersible devices are often used for hull inspections,
pollution monitoring and the retrieval of objects on the ocean floor,
but the Coast Guard has rarely deployed ROVs to the freezing waters
north of Alaska. In their ongoing quest to identify technologies for
Coast Guard use in the increasingly busy Arctic, the RDC brought not
one, but three readily available models for comparative analysis to
determine which characteristics are most desirable for an ROV in such
an extreme environment.
“Last year, we brought one ROV to test in the ice edge and we
had some mixed success with its ability to handle the conditions,”
said Jay Carey, ROV project lead for the RDC traveling aboard the Healy.
“We wound up with more questions than answers so this year, we
brought a model the Coast Guard regularly uses and two larger models
to compare their different capabilities against one another in response
to a simulated oil spill in the ice.”
aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy retrieve the glider unit of a Wave
Glider Unmanned Surface Vehicle from the ocean during an oil in ice
exercise in the Arctic Aug. 21, 2014. The Wave Glider's glider unit
can propel the device thousands of miles through the ocean using wave
motion as its only power source. Picture: USCG
the ROV models tested during this year’s exercise featured a few
common elements including tethered control and state-of-the-art camera
and lighting equipment, but they ranged in size from 10-40 pounds and
each used a slightly different means of propulsion through the water.
Researchers hoped these differences would help them distinguish the
best design characteristics for circumventing challenges they encountered
in 2013 with high-humidity conditions in the ROV’s pressure hull,
tether pull caused by ice floes and power loss.
“The biggest obstacle we encountered this year was water current,”
said Petty Officer 1st Class Adonis Kazouris, an ROV operator from Coast
Guard Regional Dive Locker San Diego traveling aboard the Healy. “The
ROVs do a great job when the current conditions are within their limitations,
but even the largest model ROV had difficulty with the strong currents
The three ROVs operated during the exercise were used in conjunction
with an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, a similar technology that uses
a self-guided submersible device to map the ocean using sonar. While
the two vehicles may seem capable of the same job, the ROVs possess
some distinct qualities that set the two apart while not invalidating
the use of the AUV.
“The strength of the ROV lies in its utility, ease of operation
and ability to provide live imagery of an area within its immediate
surroundings,” said Carey. “ROVs have already proven to
be effective in other Coast Guard operations, but every technology we
tested has a role to play in contributing to the mission of protecting
America’s Arctic waters.”