Distant Eyes

by Thomas Belcher, Owner; Underwater Resources, San Francisco, CA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 5, Pg. 53-55

Document Type: Feature article


A remotely operated vehicle is a miniature unmanned submersible that contains lights, a video camera, other instrumentation, and motor thrusters to move it through the water. The operator, at the surface, is linked to the ROV via a tether and controls the vehicle's activities with a joystick and video monitor. The ROV is an increasingly popular device for inspection of underwater structures such as pipelines and oil rigs. It is often the best choice for work in deep, dangerous and turbid waters, where use of divers is ineffective or unadvisable. Underwater Resources, San Francisco, used two of these machines to inspect sewage outfalls in Monterey Bay and the San Francisco waterfront. The Monterey pipeline had been damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake and was considered too dangerous for divers to enter without first determining that it had not collapsed or been severed. The San Francisco Ocean Beach outfall is 120 ft below sea level and was partly blocked with sediment, making visibility too poor for visual inspection.

Subject Headings: Water pipelines | Underwater surveys | Underwater structures | Underwater pipelines | Uncrewed vehicles | Oil pipelines | Inspection

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