In recent years the use of simulators in training and design has become widespread There are a number of possible reasons for this, Including

  • Advances in simulation capability resulting from significant improvements in the power, speed and flexibility of computer systems

  • A widening cost differential between simulator-based training and other forms of Training.

  • Increased awareness of the need to reduce risks to life, to expensive equipment and to Operations

Flight simulators have already proved to be a cheaper means of training aircraft pilots than actual flying. In addition the pilot can be trained to cope with emergency situations which should not normally arise but which could cause real disaster if encountered for the first tune in a live situation The latest developments in flight simulators are regularly reported m the national press, and as a result the general public is very conscious of the role they play. In the marine field, ship-manoeuvring simulators may be less well publicized, but they are now common and offer a cost-effective technique both for training and for assessing the influence of design modifications

With the increasing use of remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) in civil and defence applications, is there also a role for ROV simulators?

ROVs are now widely used to perform subsea installation, maintenance and inspection tasks offshore and have more recently been introduced into military service for route survey and mine identification and disposal They commonly comprise an open or encased framework between 0 5 and 5 m in length containing vertical and horizontal thrusters with some degree of automatic control, cameras, manipulators, and tools More recent developments include onboard sonar and acoustic positioning systems ROVs may be powered through a flexible umbilical cable, sometimes making use of a subsea garage and tether management system, or be battery powered with a much smaller umbilical for carrying control signals and for data transmission only The surface support platform may be a ship/semisubmersible moored or hovering under dynamic positioning control or a fixed structure. A variety of launch and recovery techniques, some incorporating heave compensation and tension-limiting devices, are employed In the case of military operations, vehicle tracking systems and ship-borne sonar for target identification may also play a part in ROV operations.

Piloting ROVs can require a high level of experience and skill, especially in severe environmental and poor visibility conditions or when manoeuvring close to a subsea structure ROVs have been lost as a result of poor operational practices which, for example, can lead to the umbilical becoming snagged or broken Mission failures can also occur because the system design is inadequate to carry out the task in the prevailing environmental conditions Pilot training, operational planning and system development on the job are expensive and time consuming and introduce risks and uncertainties in a market where high efficiency and productivity are now essential for commercial survival In theory, all the essential features of ROV systems and the subsea and surface envuonment can be simulated, and there would, therefore, appear to be potential for ROV simulators to be developed.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.