Since their initial implementation in the 1970s, remote operated vehicles, or ROVs, have been steadily gaining momentum. These small robots are usually controlled and powered via an umbilical cable that allows the operator to communicate in real time with the ROV above the surface of the water. While initially used only for undersea viewing, as oil and gas facilities draw their resources from deeper and deeper depths, ROVs are expanding their roles to more parts of the offshore industry.
There are two different types of ROVs used for inspection; Simple Electric Vehicles and High Capacity Vehicles, which respectively can withstand pressures of up to 300 and slightly over 6,000 meters of depth respectively. While limited by their supplied electricity, these ROVs provide valuable imagery and information through their cameras, allowing for easy viewing and monitoring of risers and other rig equipment.
A more robust type of ROV, Work Class Vehicles have a hybrid-type engine which uses both electricity and hydraulics, which allow it to perform a variety of tasks. Not only is there a wide range of ROVs to choose from, but they can also use various tools that allow them to attach flying leads, operate valves and perform a variety of other tasks.
The hardest working type are the Heavy Work Class Vehicles, which can withstand pressure of up to 3,000 feet and can come equipped with multiple manipulators, pipe tracking sonars, cathodic protection probes, or whatever else the job may require. Additionally, some in this class can be used in wreck recovery, with lift capacities as high as 11,000 pounds.
And yet it seems that we are only scratching the surface of what ROVs can do. While the dexterity of divers can never be entirely replaced, ROVs seem to be handling the literal and metaphorical pressures of their responsibilities quite well.