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4 Ways Deep Trekker ROVs Maximize Search and Recovery Budgets

Rachel Doornekamp   |   July 6, 2020

Submersible remotely operated vehicles or ROVs provide search and recovery teams with a safe and effective tool for the search and recovery of victims and evidence.

Typically search and recovery teams have limited budgets to conduct incredibly complex and difficult work. The use of an ROV allows teams to make the most of the budget they have to continue to run the best operations they possibly can.

Read on to discover how the use of ROVs maximizes search and recovery budgets.

Vehicles

An ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, is a highly maneuverable, submersible vehicle equipped with a camera to provide operators with a live view of underwater environments. Intelligent and easy to use, ROVs are durable and portable solutions for submerged inspections.

The DTG3 is a mini observation-class underwater ROV built to provide operators the ability to quickly deploy and visually inspect within underwater environments. Equipped with an internal pivoting 4k camera, the unit can hold position in the water while the camera is rotated 270° above and below. With expert engineering and the help of gravity, the ROV shell and thrusters can be rotated while gravity holds down the internal semi-circle weighted frame, allowing the ROV to drive straight up and down, side to side, forwards and backwards while using the same thrusters.

The Deep Trekker REVOLUTION is a completely re-imagined ROV. This mission-ready ROV offers greater payload capabilities, deeper depths, and advanced stabilization.The patented pending revolving head allows operators to rotate the camera, manipulators, and sonar 260° all while station holding in moving water. The 6 vectored thrusters allow for lateral movement side to side and precise turning forward and backward, providing maximum control and advanced station holding.

Both vehicles operate using our BRIDGE technology. Enhancing operation capabilities with a seamless technology platform, BRIDGE provides simplified control and constant communication for an optimized experience.

Use of Divers

The use of an ROV allows teams to maximize their budget by keeping divers safe and using an ROV in difficult or inconvenient situations. Furthermore, divers can be saved for situations where they are absolutely necessary, allowing the ROV to conduct the more mundane tasks.

Search and recovery missions can be dangerous and time consuming for divers, making an underwater ROV an incredibly useful tool for teams. Working in tandem with divers, ROVs provide instant eyes in the water to assist in many facets of recovery, from the quick identification of targets to the retrieval of items from dangerous locations.

Shane Seagroves, Director of Emergency Services in Lee County, NC noted one specific instance where an ROV keeps divers out of the water. “You take the ROV and you can find your target pretty easily down on the bottom,” noted Seagroves. “We identify the target with the boat, so we’re using the ROV instead of having to do hops with the divers. We deploy the ROV from the boat, verify the target yes or no.”

In using the ROV, divers do not have to gear up and spend excessive amounts of time identifying targets.

Seagroves underlined that divers still have a place in search and recovery and the use of ROVs is not about replacing divers, but keeping them safer. “A lot of the divers are reluctant to ask us to come out because they thought we were trying to put them out of business and that’s never been what it was for. It’s always to make it safer for everyone there on the scene.”

Maine State Police Special Agent Glenn Lang echoes Seagroves’ statement, “You’re not replacing them (divers), it makes them safer and preserves the lives of divers because it can be so hazardous going under the ice...25 years ago I lost one of my friends who was diving under the ice, it’s just that risky...losing divers that way is just unacceptable when you can take care of it without putting a man under the ice.”

Using an ROV in search and recovery missions allows divers to stay safe and out of treacherous situations. Furthermore, the ROV can provide assistance to divers, allowing them to complete their missions in a timely manner and limit time underwater.

“It’s all about safety for us,” shared Seagroves. “Safety for our divers, and speeding up the process.”

Time Required

The use of ROVs allows teams to greatly minimize the time required for search and recoveries. In using the ROV for target search and identification, teams can quickly locate victims and evidence.

During the recovery of Kelsey Starling, Ashton Davis, Houston County Search and Rescue Chief and Board President, remarked that using “the camera rotation feature as opposed to driving and risking entanglement” was incredibly helpful. In addition, the depths of the search area often exceeded 230ft; meaning to search for 45 minutes the divers would need to spend nearly three hours decompressing. The DTG3 was able to dive all day reducing the risk and maximizing the search time for Kelsey.

Davis noted that the use of an ROV was essential throughout the search process. Maximizing both diver safety and efficiency allowed the team to conduct the search in the best way possible. “It’s going to be one of the tools in our toolbox for sure,” said Davis.

Seagroves shared a valuable comparison of two searches, one using an ROV and one using dragging procedures. “There were two drownings, 30 miles apart, within two days. They call me to go to the first one. My first pass with the boat I got a good image...took the ROV down and verified the target, attached the ROV to his bathing suit. The diver went into the water, followed the tether down and the victim was in a body bag and back in the boat literally maximum 15 minutes after the diver first penetrated the surface of the water. That’s success. You’re getting closure to the family, you’re dropping the risk factor for the divers and you’re not keeping people on the water all day. The second drowning we were not called to go up there..they were on the 6 o’clock evening news via a helicopter flying over them and they were doing dragging operations in the cove...that was a 24, 30 hour recovery on a victim that was in a cove. Our recovery was less than an hour, they spent 30 hours out there.”

Recovery can also be made quicker and safer by using an ROV to assist divers. Ashton Davis of Houston County Rescue also uses their ROV to make recovery both quick and safe. In the Kelsey Starling case, the team deliberately wrapped the DTG3 around the nearest tree to use as their diving guide line. Davis noted that, “having a tether really helps.”

Seagroves uses the ROV in a similar manner for making recovery quicker and safer for divers. “We attach the ROV to the target and have the diver go down and do the recovery,” explained Seagroves.

“By far the best piece of equipment other than divers is this ROV,” shared Davis, adding that the work possible with both human divers and an ROV makes for an ideal search and recovery team. The battery life allowed for long searches in deep and potentially dangerous waters without unnecessarily tiring divers, while the sophisticated camera provided searchers with a high quality view in waters with varying visibility.

By expediting search and recovery operations, teams are able to save money on the cost of operations.

Versatility

The portability and durability of the units allow teams to make the most of their vehicle’s versatility. Lang has been able to get creative with his ROV to retrieve sunken vehicles.

On February 1st on Crawford Pond in Warren, Maine, two ATV riders unfortunately drove out into a dangerous area of open water. Safely and efficiently rescued by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the Maine Warden Service, both riders were unharmed however the ATV was lost underwater.

Covering an area of 596 acres with a maximum depth of 57 feet, Crawford Pond is a tough spot to find a sunken ATV in. Police had a flat-bottomed jon boat to retrieve the ATV with, however actually finding the sunken vehicle would require more than that.

In lieu of sending down a diver into dangerous conditions to confirm the location of the vehicle, the team opted to send in the DTG3. Using the ROV’s 4k camera, Lang was able to find the ATV within half an hour.

Once the location of the ATV was confirmed by the ROV, the DTG3 was used to tie a slipknot onto the sunken vehicle to allow it to be pulled from the water. Without the ROV the time and resources needed to actually locate the ATV would have been far greater. The ROV was also used to retrieve the ATV riders’ auger.

The Deep Trekker Difference

“Everytime I have called with a question someone has gotten to me instantly, the support has been fantastic, the device has been fantastic. I love my machine and I got a great price on it. Their support is second to none,” Lang shared, a sentiment echoed by Seagroves. “Our ROV paid for itself on the first recovery,” Seagroves said.

“It’s not just our operations, it’s more of a regional asset for the state of North Carolina. It has sped up the process by which we find evidence, it’s increased the safety factor because we don't have to have divers in the water as much as before. Anytime you can take and use something mechanical or electronic to make it safer for our responders, it’s definitely a big asset to what we’re trying to do,” shared Seagroves.

You can read more about specific search and recovery cases in our Houston County Rescue and Underwater Recovery with Glenn Lang stories.

As always, our team of industry experts is available to answer any further questions you may have! If you’re ready to get a vehicle of your own you can get your own customized quote today!