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Unravelling the Symbiosis of ROVs, AUVs, and Optical Precision

28th Nov 2023

In the subsea robot domain, improvements in remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) drive progress. Here, we delve into the current landscape of submersibles, shedding light on the evolution of ROVs and AUVs, and emphasise the vital purpose of the incorporation of optical components.


Unravelling the Symbiosis of ROVs, AUVs, and Optical Precision


As we highlighted earlier in the year, technology plays a key role in mitigating disasters in our waters. However, beyond crisis management, it continues to be a driving force in many aspects of activities; for instance, underwater exploration, optimising oil and gas procedures, offshore wind power and deep-sea mining.

Today, bots are integral for operational processes throughout varied industries worldwide. However, in aquatic disciplines, their application has found a notably suitable niche in preventing hazardous events for human workers. Duties traditionally handled by highly skilled professionals, like divers managing pipeline maintenance, investigations of ruins, and seabed mining, can now be efficiently performed by robots. This not only eliminates the threat of tragic accidents but also assists in safeguarding against potential fatalities.

‍‍Unravelling the Symbiosis of ROVs, AUVs, and Optical Precision


These breakthroughs often take the form of state-of-the-art structures like UAVs and ROVs. Let’s explore their uses and uncover fresh developments in their programming.

The Intriguing Sphere of ROVs

Managed by operators from a safe distance, ROVs have transformed the sector since their debut in the 1960s [1], and they proceed to evolve. This versatile equipment, essential in numerous sectors, is applied across a broad spectrum – from conducting examinations in the oil and gas arena to fostering mining and shipwreck studies.

Significantly, the UK stands as a fundamental hub for these submersible vessels, boasting a robust headquarters base. Companies, including ourselves, lead the way in propelling industry advancements. Specifically, we play a crucial role in offering high-spec optics specially crafted for underwater applications like ROVs and UAVs, setting higher standards in the field.


Unravelling the Symbiosis of ROVs, AUVs, and Optical Precision


High-Speed Survey ROVs

As an example, London-based Next Geosolutions, a key player in marine geoscience and offshore construction support services, recently introduced the high-speed survey ROV, HS-ROV Superior. Produced for surveys in water depths of up to 3000m2, it caters to various purposes such as assessments of pipelines and cables and pipe and cable routes, and geophysical or UXO studies covering large or deep areas [2].

Seabed Secrets Unveiled

Simultaneously, in the northern regions, FORUM Energy Technologies, headquartered in Aberdeen, secured a deal with the UK Ministry of Defence Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) team. The agreement entails supplying the UK-manufactured [3] work-class ROV as part of the global oilfield products company’s subsea product line [3], helping salvage and wreck research.

Unravelling the Symbiosis of ROVs, AUVs, and Optical Precision

ROVs and Optical Accuracy

It’s evident that these remote wonders continue to revolutionise initiatives. By exploring just a couple of examples, we’ve witnessed practical applications, from meticulous inspections to supporting salvage schemes. Crucially, our position in providing optics for underwater applications sets the standard for the precision needed in the manufacture of these ROVs.

AUVs at the Forefront of Investigation

Once again, the UK emerges as a thriving hub for AUVs. Unlike ROVs, these machines independently navigate under the water, eliminating the need for continuous operator input. Their autonomy has forged a strong connection with artificial intelligence (AI), marking a substantial technological collaboration.

Diving into Discovery

One illustration is a project backed by Innovate UK, a part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The scheme was led by ecoSUB AUVs in collaboration with Planet Ocean. The venture aimed to showcase the feasibility of carrying out in-depth surveys and explorations using teams of AUVs. This represents a significant advancement, as combining multiple units into a cohesive team helps to address the limitations of individual vehicles [4].

Deep Blue Innovations

In addition to survey functions, Navies globally have shown a keen interest in employing AUVs. A notable example involves the recent announcement by Hanwha Systems, a South Korean business. In November, they disclosed securing a contract to construct the prototype of an ultra-large AUV for the South Korean national agency focused on defence technology R&D, ADD (Agency for Defense Development). In an endeavour expected to cost $19m USD [5], the AUV is designed for several missions, including long-range reconnaissance and low-risk mine installation. The unmanned operation ensures minimal chances of early detection by adversaries or the chance of crew loss [5].

Fuelling the Future

Meanwhile, over in the US, the Navy has started using a set-up that allows AUVs to recharge without returning to a station in a hydrogen fuel cell approach. Following the increased use of submersible devices, the initiative aims to enable independent operations of unmanned underwater vehicles, allowing them to function autonomously and at considerable distances from the currently required support mechanisms for deep-sea operation [6].

Introducing AI

Undoubtedly, AI has become customary in many corners of the subsea sector. The integration of AI into our ROVs and AUVs propels us beyond mere autonomy, enabling equipment that can adeptly execute jobs, analyse situations, and make informed decisions with high efficiency and effectiveness.

A recent Offshore article highlights the transformative impact of AI on subsea robotics, particularly drones. The focus of the piece is on Mauro Piasere, COO of Robotics and Industrialised Solutions at Saipem, the creator of FlatFish – an advanced underwater inspection drone. FlatFish is engineered to supply features such as the “de-manning of offshore operations, automation of inspection tasks, and project de-risking through a subsea resident drone that can be deployed promptly” [7]. The key innovation lies in its AI-based control system, facilitating “goal-driven autonomous mission execution with real-time decision-making capabilities” [7].

ROVs, AUVs, and Optics Charting New Depths

The synergy between ROVs, AUVs, and cutting-edge optics remains undeniable. Optical components are pivotal to the seamless functionality of these underwater systems. Equipped with lights, cameras, and sensors, the vehicles depend on high-quality optics for peak performance.

At Knight Optical, we provide an extensive array of stock and custom-made optics. Our offerings typically specified for ROVs and AUVs span from custom-made optics (as well as stock components) such as Lenses and Windows through to Filters and Laser Optics, ensuring a comprehensive suite of solutions to meet diverse needs.

Subsea innovation continues as ROVs, AUVs, and optics team up in the depths, assisting the everyday processes that take place beneath the waves.