I recently accompanied a film crew working on a documentary on maritime technologies to the NOAA facility in Newport, Oregon to catch a glimpse of what is widely celebrated as the “coolest ROV in the world.” The Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Sciences (ROPOS) is the flagship research ROV of the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF) based on Vancouver Island.
On its current mission, ROPOS is being operated by CSSF to support an 80+ day deployment aboard the MV Thompson (a research ship owned by the University of Washington) to perform new sensor installations and maintenance of the Regional Scale Nodes (RSN). That’s an ocean observation network of sensors and underwater power and communications cables off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.
The RSN is the first such network to span a tectonic plate, with sections thousands of meters underwater and hundreds of kilometers offshore, one section near an underwater volcano. To do the complex and sometimes delicate work in such “alien” conditions, the sophisticated ROPOS is one of the few ROV up to the challenge. ROPOS assistant director Keith Tamburri, who has been building and operating ROVs since high school, gave me a guided tour while the MV Thompson was on a rare in-port day for provisioning.
“There is a big difference between a commercial ROV and a scientific one like ROPOS,” says Tamburri. “We’ve been modifying and improving ROPOS for decades, and our clients have specific needs that require special tools.”
ROPOS is rated down to 5,000 meters and packs numerous hi-res cameras (one costs around $250k), high-powered lighting, and the most capable manipulator arms in the industry. See the interview with Tamburri here [insert link to interview, when it’s ready] and the full documentary (sponsored in part by xyHt) in early 2015.
Above picture: Keith Tamburri, ROPOS assistant director, gives an overview of what some call “the coolest ROV in the world” onboard the MV Thompson research support vessel.