Jul 9, 2009

Electronics versus saltwater

Currently the lab is working on several projects, most of which require ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) video sampling of artificial reef fish communities. So, we've received quite a bit of funding to do this work and we're in need of a new ROV. We're conducting video transects of different reef types: natural reefs, artificial reef modules, and wrecks. To perform the transects, we need to know the ROV's position on the sea bottom. Recently, Videoray has put out its newest model, the Pro-4, which can be outfitted with the tools we need.

This machine makes our other two look like toy boats. It has better navigation, more power, and a ballast system. We're also going to equip it with a smart tether positioning system which will allow us to track the ROV's movements with real time GPS. The movement data can also be uploaded into Google Earth, which is nice.

Looks like I have another user manual to read and memorize. Because I'm the guy that should have all the answers when this thing gives us trouble. Yes I said "when" and not "if". ROVs break. Tethers break. Video recorders break. Generators break. You name it...I've broken it. The amount of money it has taken to replace all the stuff I've broken could pay for the entire college education of my wife and I. This is why nobody lets me borrow anything.

The ROV is a fantastic tool for conducting fisheries research. Videoray does great work and we've been happy with their machines and service. But the nature of it all....electronics dipped in salt water? There are a million components to a working system, and if one goes wrong, then research can't be conducted. No video...no data. For this reason we have backups, and we have backups for backups. We're pretty rough on the machines doing offshore work, so every time we go out we carry hundreds of pounds of equipment onboard. Just in case the inevitable happens.


complete and utter breakage

So when the new machine arrives, it's time for me to hit the campus pool. Its where we go to practice with the ROV, perform experiments, and sometimes just to chase the old people around during lap swim. I have to learn how to use this thing before we go offshore in a few weeks to work alongside David Doubilet and National Geographic. He contacted us last year to see if we would be interested in working with him on an article for the magazine. He wants to take some underwater shots of our ROV on some artificial reefs off of Florida. In other words, he wants to film us filming fish. He'll be here in August, and if things go as planned, the article should be in the magazine by Fall 2010.

You should check out his work. Impressive is an understatement. I'm pretty stoked about the whole thing, so I'll definitely let you guys know how it goes. Five bucks says I'll probably end up crippling David's equipment somehow. Why? Because it's probably more expensive than ours.


  1. Three things:
    1. Super rad! New toys for Dustin school!
    2. I'm hope when you refer to the new "smart" teather positioning system you aren't taking a dig a the old teather positioning system (i.e. me). Although, my record isn't exactly stellar...
    3. What are the dates for the photo shoot? I want on the crew list!

    -The small bossy one

  2. We'll be scheduling the trip with Seth. We're trying for August 1st and 2nd. I'll keep you updated, and I'll tell Big Tuna that you want to go.

  3. Yay, can't wait to read the National Geo with my nephew in it. Be careful with the man's equipment. --- Aunt Toni