Saab Seaeye and Los Angeles Long Beach Fire Department have found a way to cut the time that takes to find a victim underwater from an average of three hours, to less than 30 minutes using a cleverly modified Falcon ROV that can rapidly sweep the area.
Initially, finding a faster solution using a ROV-mounted sonar seemed impossible, as the kind of high-resolution sonar system able to detect soft tissue is too large and heavy to be mounted on an ROV small enough to be manhandled into the water for rapid deployment.
Although the Falcon was the ideal ROV, both in size and technological resources, the team were faced with the problem of trying to fit a meter-long sonar device onto a meter long ROV. They came up with a solution to split the sonar unit in two; the sonar head was fitted to the rear of the Falcon, with the electronics pack squeezed inside. However, this caused another problem, the weight of this kind of sonar would normally sink or destabilise a small ROV.
The solution came in two ways. First, Saab Seaeye engineers discovered a way to manage the buoyancy of the ROV and balance it to stay afloat and remain stable for accurate sonar scanning. Second, they found the Falcon’s five powerful thrusters could handle the weight and manoeuvrability, whilst working in currents and deep water.
“We wanted something that was not too expensive,” explains Stan Jackson of the Long Beach Fire Department, “but could handle the technology, and work in confined spaces and out in the ocean. And also something we could get going quickly.”
Comparing the benefits of an ROV over a diver, Jackson said: “An ROV doesn’t need to see in the dark, it can work tirelessly and can recover the victim with its manipulator.”
The Fire Department sees other opportunities for using the Falcon and its camera and video recording capability across the jurisdiction.
‘”We can inspect the hulls of ships in the harbour, and check bridges after an earthquake,” says Stan Jackson.
The Falcon is used in many sectors across the world from the emergency services and homeland security, to the oil and gas industry, hydro engineering and marine science.
March 06, 2014