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Sea Platforms

ONR enhances human-machine teaming with prototype undersea ROV

22 May 2017
A scale model of the Dive Buddy ROV on display at the Pentagon in May 2017 shows the cavity that enables payload switching. Source: IHS Markit/Anika Torruella

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Surface Warfare Command (NAVSEA) Panama City, Florida, division have developed a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to increase diver survivability and limit diver undersea exposure.

The Dive Buddy ROV project has designed, prototyped, and tested a semi-autonomous underwater vehicle that enables naval dive teams to have a rapid response 'fly-away' capability for disabled submarines' assessment and escape, sensitive aircraft debris recovery, subsea infrastructure security, and capsize victim rescue missions while reducing logistics and response time.

Dive Buddy provides divers with a navigation, search, and transportation tool that is tethered to a surface vessel and can also act as a communications node to relay wireless communications between the ROV and the diver, voice and data from the diver up the "umbilical" tether to the surface vessel, and data and low bandwidth, real-time video from the vessel down to the diver, Lee Cofer, a NAVSEA unmanned systems electronics engineer, told Jane's on 18 May at the Pentagon.

Cofer explained that the system is designed to go at least as fast as a diver can swim, can acoustically track divers via sonar, follow a diver or a target, perform station keeping, or go down before divers to survey a small search area and perform dive site reconnaissance and tagging, "so they're not sending divers down and possibly wasting their bottom time". The ROV is also enabled to guide or retrieve a diver, perform localised 'waypoint' navigation, or tow two divers, although this "creates a lot of drag".

The ROV can carry switchable payloads, such as up to 16 Mk 15 rebreathers, or two 100 kg scuba cylinder clips, or most any type of free swimming life support equipment needed.

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