I have REALLY enjoyed watching the ecosystem of low-cost ROV companies that have sprung up around the BlueROV project. There is so much cool stuff available now – Topside power supplies from outland, DVL from Waterlinked, USBL positioning from Cerulean Sonar, 360 sonar from Blue, custom controller panels, robotic arms, fiber optic tether conversion from SeaView systems, side scan, scanning and even multibeam sonar systems from DeepVision, Tritech, and others… This stuff is priced so that’s within the grasp of a bootstrapped small business.
But here’s the reality check… Not too long ago, I did a search and rescue project alongside a big company running a really impressive inspection-class ROV. I didn’t get the details, but picture something about like this:
They were able to plug in the coordinates of a target we identified with side-scan sonar, drop the ROV in the water, and navigate the ROV directly to those coordinates using a moving map interface fed by topside acoustic positioning and DVL. As they got close to the waypoint, the scanning sonar picked up the target, and they used it to guide them gently in for a close look with cameras.
“Nope, that’s just a dog crate.” So up came the ROV, winched onto the boat’s deck, and then off to check the next target.
I’m not going to lie, it was really f-ing cool to watch them work.
So… Are we to the point where we can replicate that capability with a BlueROV and third party parts? It seems like all of the individual components exist now, but is it possible to get all of them working together reliably in a single control interface like the one pictured above?
And if it is possible, what would the total cost be for a completely tricked out, maximum capability, BlueROV Max-edition?
I personally believe you could buy all the parts for under $50K. Compared to $300K+ (maybe way more) for a commercial rig.
But I’m less confident that there is an existing solution to make all this stuff work together. I don’t know. What do yall think? Has anyone done this?