This paper is a general discussion of the supportive role available to divers from-R_O_V-and Atmospheric Diving Systems (ADS).
It is hoped that the paper will show that developments in submersible technology can be considered as complementary to diving programmes and not as is generally thought, totally competitive.
Vehicle support of divers has in the past been limited mainly to the use of the ‘eyeball’ ROV, primarily as a general surveillance unit to aid surface controllers' engineering and supervisory input to the divers' activities.
This developed to diver assistance in terms of lighting, video of pertinent aspects to the surface, navigation to some extent, and the ability to relieve divers in some circumstances of the need to carry camera units.
Many well documented cases are available which have highlighted the increase in general diver safety, and efficiency in reducing dive time, due to the increased data available on the surface.
Divers over the last few years have accepted this aspect of ROV technology to a point where the eyeball ROV is considered to be a valuable aid and tool a standard part of a diving programme.
Indeed, in some recent diving programmes, divers have questioned the absence of the eyeball from their dives.
General structural inspection by ROV is usually considered as a separate activity or operation from diving. However, it could be said in overall terms that the inspection ROV is working in conjunction with, and in support of divers, by reducing the divers' workload and in-water time duration.
This is of course proposed from a technical aspect and not from the divers' paypacket point of view. It must however be said that ROV inspection, due to its increased efficiency, may well have increased the divers' workload by identifying areas requiring closer, more dextrous inspection.
Apart from this, very little has been achieved on a large scale in physical or tooling support of divers. It is perhaps an anomaly of the industry that work ROV and ADS/mini-sub projects have achieved considerable success as separate entities in support of subsea engineering tasks, and very little in support of divers directly.
There are a few excellent exceptions to this statement both past and present. Some immediate examples of Submersible technology in use with divers are the diver lockout submersibles, mobile diving unit (bells with 1 atm control) and the proposed DAVID ROV system.
The present major advances in ADS/ROV technology are in advanced tooling programmes, which by definition has led to the development of larger, more capable vehicles to carry the tooling. The tooling advances are largely aimed at IMR structural operations. This advanced tooling capability could be made to work in conjunction with a diving operation. To draw a comparison, the capabilities of the proposed DAVID ROV system, designed primarily as an aid to diving operations, bear a surprising resemblance to the proposed capabilities of the new advanced ROV/ADS systems which are designed primarily as vehicle orientated systems.