The most unique aspect of the ROV capability in the commercial subsea field is the fact that it spans the entire spectrum of the industry - from initial exploration (including seismic application) through drilling, installation, production (inspection., maintenance and repair), to field shutdown. This capability also addresses (with various degrees of success) the requirements within each area from the coarsest to the most detailed of inspections, and from the simplest of tasks to a developing range of complex ones. As such, the ROV is one of the few capabilities or products that is both vertically and horizontally integrated into the performance of subsea tasks. The other unique feature of the ROV is that its three initials represents an almost unlimited range of types, sizes, features, and potential capabilities, some of which encompass technology equal to that of the most advanced offshore equipment.


ROV - Remotely Operated Vehicle - is an acronym for a family, genus, and species of subsea equipment used to support underwater operations from survey through field shutdown. The term ROV represents a range of systems that covers over 30 types of conventional ROVs with totals exceeding 500. Within the ROV family are major categories for observation, inspection, light work, heavy work, and special applications. Each of the major categories further breaks down into specialties such as inspection - pipeline or platform, heavy work - manipulator or work package based, etc. In many instances there is overlapping or blurring of the specialties but there are clear cut requirements for each major category and the ROVs that are cost effective and productive are those which accurately address the requirements. The ROV has evolved from a technical oddity of almost unlimited limitations to a reliable, productive capability fully integrated into many areas of the underwater support spectrum. This development has not been smooth and has seen more than its share of misplaced concepts, confidence, and cash. A major shortcoming has been repeated, and continuing, efforts to design and develop systems that do not address the needs of the marketplace. Out of this misguided effort have come both unacceptably simplistic and unnecessarily complex ROVs that had no market. Inevitably these failures cast doubts on the ability of ROVs to address the requirements. In spite of this, the ROV's place in the offshore industry is secure and growing. This paper will identify the role played by the ROV in a number of areas of the offshore industry at this time. It will evaluate the significance of this role, establish the limitations of present day capabilities, and address future applications.


As noted earlier, the ROV exists in an almost unlimited number of combinations. However, to understand what it is, and isn't, and why certain systems are successful and others not, an overview is useful. Using the work based ROV as an example, we find elements of Submarine, spacecraft, and robotic technology combining with the psychology and technology of vision and spatial relationship. The ROV is based on weight, balance and stability - fairly straightforward but often inadequately addressed.

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