This paper describes the development of a remotely controlled towed vehicle system designed to operate to a depth of 2400feet.

The system consists of three basic parts:

  1. The underwater remote observation vehicle. This assembly includes control surfaces - with a loop to maintain either a constant height above bottom or a constant depth. It also includes a television camera with a pan and tilt mechanism and lighting, a data camera and lighting, a forward looking sonar for obstacle avoidance, and provisions for additional underwater instrumentation.

  2. The control console on board a ship. The control console includes sled attitude controls, television monitors, video tape recorders, depth and attitude monitors, control signal coders, and telemetry transducers.

  3. The interconnecting cable. The underwater vehicle is connected to the control console by an armored four conductor cable with two power conductors and two coaxial conductors. One coax is used for the television and one for the telemetry commands and data signals up and down the cable. A slip ring winch is employed.

The development of this system follows the successful design, development, and operation of a shallow water (50 fathoms) Remote Underwater Fisheries System (RUFAS) by the National Marine Fisheries Service. This project is funded by the Mississippi Universities Marine Center with Sea Grant funds. The work is divided into three phases:

  • Design Study,

  • Design and Fabrication of the Vehicle System, and

  • Final Instrumentation and Sea Test. This paper reports the first phases as Final Instrumentation and Sea Tests are scheduled for the Fall of 1972.


The National Marine Fisheries Service, Pascagoula, Mississippi, has successfully field tested a remote controlled, underwater vehicle called RUFAS (Remote Underwater Fishery Assessment System). The towed sled is vane controlled and senses roll, pitch, and height above bottom, which allows an operator aboard the towing vessel to position the sled to the desired altitude above the sea bed.

Underwater lights, a motion picture camera, and a TV camera with video tape recorder allow rapid and accurate sea bottom resource assessment in waters of up to 50 fathoms depth. RUFAS was developed to accomplish the single objective of assessing calico scallops in their natural habitat. The successful accomplishment of this objective proved the value of an unmanned, controlled underwater vehicle for rapid bottom resource survey. Photographs of the RUFAS I vehicle are shown in Figure 1.

It is apparent that by expanding the concept of an unmanned survey vehicle many applications can be found for it. Because of the uniqueness of its mission, RUFAS I was designed for shallow water, near bottom operation and its flexibility of operation is limited. Expanding the capabilities of a RUFAS-type vehicle to accomplish the bottom survey in both deep and shallow water would prove invaluable. The ability to conduct midwater resource surveys in the to 600 feet range is also desirable.

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