Top 10 Deep Trekker Missions and Applications
Rachel Doornekamp | December 14, 2020
Our ROVs have been used for a number of exciting applications over the last 10 years. While we can’t possibly choose our favourites, we’re looking back at 10 unique ways our vehicles were used.
Archaeological Find on the Straits of Mackinac
In mid-September of this 2020 a group in the Straits of Mackinac came across a stunning archeological find with the DTG3.
The team, made up mostly of Native American tribal citizens, was conducting research on Enbridge’s Line 5 oil and natural gas pipelines, located on the lake bottom in Lake Michigan. It was during this important work that the group came across stones arranged in what looked like deliberate circular and linear patterns on the lake floor. If these arrangements were in fact completed by humans, as they appear, it would have been near the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago when the Straits of Mackinac were last above water. This impressive discovery is incredibly important culturally for tribes still living in the area, and a significant archaeological discovery.
Island Dolphin Care
For more than 20 years, Island Dolphin Care has provided dolphin-assisted therapeutic, motivational and educational therapy to children and adults with developmental or physical challenges. With an emphasis on inclusivity and kindness, participants are inspired to value and respect marine mammals and their environment through interactive programs, education and research.
The challenge faced by Island Dolphin Care team was two-fold; the need for regular scuba diving and the influence of humans on behavioural research. Instead of suiting up and diving into the pools, the Island Dolphin Care team was able to use the DTG3 to conduct regular inspections. By using an ROV in lieu of divers, inspections can be done quickly and easily, without the need to coordinate equipment and swimmers. The quick deployment allowed inspections to take place at any time, a factor that is especially valuable for a busy venue like Island Dolphin Care. The grabber arm provided a convenient method for the team to clean up the litter coming into the habitat through the nearby ocean. “I really like this ROV,” shared Philip Admire, Director of Zoology. “I like what it can do, I love the grabber arm.”
From a behavioural research perspective, the DTG3 provided the team with a way to observe and research without interfering or influencing the dolphins. “It’s great to be able to interact with the dolphins without having a human face there,” said Admire. “We do a lot of diving here with our dolphins and we’ll be able to do that remotely. When you’re human working with these animals on research you give out these subtle cues and you don’t realize it. The Deep Trekker is not going to do that and we’re going to be able to expand our research possibilities.” Equipped with a 4k quality camera, operators get a live underwater view as they drive the vehicle. The option to take photos and videos allow users to refer back to their footage, which is especially beneficial for research purposes.
Researching Climate Change
Homa Kheyrollah Pour, Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Environmental Change and assistant professor in Wilfrid Laurier University's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies is conducting ongoing research on global warming using the DTG3 with her team, the Remote Sensing of Environmental Change Research Group (ReSEC Lab).
Dispatching to Délı̨nę, within the Tsá Tué International Biosphere Reserve in the Northwest Territories, Kheyrollah Pour and her team set out to gather information regarding the effects of climate change on Arctic lake ice. Global warming is especially pertinent to Northern Canada as reports have suggested that Northern Canada is warming at nearly three times the global rate.
There were numerous ways in which the DTG3, nicknamed Dory by the ReSEC team, was used to research the area. Kheyrollah Pour noted that investigating the layers of ice provides researchers with valuable insight into how the ice has formed and ice growth over time on a large lake such as Great Bear Lake (GBL). “When there is no or little snow on the ice, the ice grows from the bottom of the ice cover. The ROV allowed us to actually look under the ice to easily see the topography and ice-water interface,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Using the 4k camera on the DTG3, the team was able to observe the ice from underneath to gather valuable insights. Kheyrollah Pour explained that as the duration of seasonal lake ice cover is declining across Canada , the duration of the open water season will increase which has numerous implications for the environment and lake ecosystem. By monitoring winter ice cover conditions and under-ice water quality, the ReSEC team can learn more about these changes that will be happening in the future.
Using the Dory the DTG3, the ReSEC team also took important water and sediment samples. “Without the ROV, we couldn’t collect water samples under the ice at various depths up to 45m,” shared Kheyrollah Pour. With the temperature sensor on the ROV, the researchers were able to gather data regarding changing water temperatures at numerous depths and locations. Noting that land loses heat faster than water, Kheyrollah Pour mentioned that obtaining these temperatures was crucial to her research.
Looking at algae blooms also provided key information for the ReSEC team. “We used the Deep Trekker for sampling different depths and to take sediment samples from the bottom,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Taking samples from different depths and locations gave the team a complete look at the surrounding environment.
Storm Pipe Alligator
In 2014 one of our customers was conducting a routine storm pipe inspection when he came across something we hadn’t seen before! About 30 feet in, something with large teeth appears to be blocking the pipe, not allowing the ROV to pass. When the ROV gets closer it is clear, it is an alligator in no mood to move!
Ghost Fishing has long been a passion at Deep Trekker. Lost, abandoned and otherwise discarded fishing gear poses a huge risk for marine life. While it’s hard to pick just one ghost fishing mission that stands out, ghost fishing in Norway with ROVPartner was especially rewarding. It is just one small thing we can do to help the oceans we love so much.
In 2017 we were thrilled to travel to South Africa to inspect an abalone farm. These marine snails are delicacies, consumed raw, similar to an oyster and use a recirculating system to bring in water from the ocean to ranch this species over their lifetime. The DT340 Pipe Crawler entered the ocean intake pipe to perform a thorough inspection, while the DTG2 ROV was used to swim inside their reservoir tanks to search for marine growth build up -- talk about a winning team!
Accessible subsea exploration is just the beginning, students around the world have been actively working with Deep Trekker ROVs to see how robotics are being used in the real world. Some of these students have taken Deep Trekker as far as Palau and the Arctic for important environmental research.
Organizations such as the Ocean Institute in California have a full robotics program for young students to build their own ROV and learn to fly the Deep Trekker in their demonstration tank.
In the overnight and day programs titled, "Sea Floor Explorer", students from grades 4-6 become benthic scientists; immersing themselves in elaborate aquatic research activities that focus on coring/micropaleontology, underwater seismology, hydrothermal vent communities, and much more. Students in the Sea Floor Explorer program have the opportunity to build their very own oceanographic ROV. Once assembled, they practice piloting their unit in the test tank on campus. Later, these eager learners head out to open water to survey the seafloor utilizing the Deep Trekker ROV.
"We have found spiny lobsters, angel sharks, and a multitude of other critters while exploring our harbor with the ROV," explains Leslie Kretschmar, Director of the At Sea Program at the Ocean Institute, "The students love scouring the bottom to see anything and everything they can encounter!"
Fisheries and Marine Institute
Two students from The Fisheries and Marine Institute at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Julia McLaughlin and Kaitlyn Charmley, are using the DTPod to conduct research for their masters degrees by building benthic maps of different habitat types throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
The primary goal of their masters work is to build habitat maps of the different benthic habitat types that are present in various bays in Newfoundland and Labrador. By collecting data on the physical attributes of the seafloor (substrate type, bathymetry, etc.), as well as identifying the epifauna present within our study sites, McLaughlin and Charmley are able to gather necessary information.
“The DTPod plays a critical part in the modelling process, by allowing us to accurately collect data on species abundance and substrate type in benthic habitats,” shared McLaughlin and Charmley. “We collect bathymetric data using acoustic sonars to understand the physical shape of the seafloor, but still need an actual visual to ground-truth our findings. We deploy the camera off the side of our survey vessel and let it drift 1-2 meters off the seafloor for two minutes. We do this sampling throughout the entire survey site where acoustic data was collected, and which can consist of upwards to 50 transect sites. Thus, the camera lets us get a full representation of the different habitat systems along the benthos.
Deep Trekker ROVs
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We are delighted anytime a customer can create a revenue stream for themselves using one of our vehicles! Josh Buniak of JS Industries uses his DT320 to conduct condition assessments for infrastructure improvement. While condition assessments are Buniak’s most common task for the DT320, he also completes trouble inspections to meet the sewer cleaning and restoration needs of his clientele.
Buniak was able to create this revenue stream for himself with the purchase of a DT320. In order to be successful it is imperative that businesses are able to exceed the expectations of their clientele. The features of the DT320 provide Buniak with a versatile vehicle that gives him a competitive edge in the market.
“With the DT320 I can go into pipelines and get to areas that my competition can’t,” he said. This effectiveness allows Buniak to get an edge over competitors, empowering him to become a leader in the industry.
Buniak elaborated on the versatility of the DT320 explaining, “I really like the wheel kits. With these I’m able to traverse some pipes that I wouldn’t have been able to before.”
The use of the DT320 has allowed Buniak to expand and grow his business. “There is lots of value in a DT320 purchase,” he said.
With the DT320, Buniak has built a strong revenue stream, empowering him to continue to build his company and meet the unique needs of his customers. On the crawler, Buniak shared that “efficiencies are through the roof!”
Buniak noted that the crawler gives him the freedom to thrive, “I can see myself getting a second camera, there’s lots of room to grow with these crawlers, there’s lots of capacity.”
We were thrilled when Ontario Power Generation’s Che Swearengen, Commercial Inspection and Maintenance Diver, shared with us how he and his team have used their Deep Trekker to optimize operations.
In one specific case, Swearengen and his team were able to use their vehicle to not only locate but also seal a leak on a calandria. There was a known leak on a calandria however the exact location could not be determined. Housing all of the fuel bundles, the calandria is surrounded by heavy water.
The OPG team made the decision to use an ROV to locate the leak. “The driving factor here was that there was no access to actually get in and do the inspection. There was also fuel still inside the reactor core - which is the calandria - so the radiation dosage was extremely high making it unreachable for humans. We were able to actually access this with the ROV and go down around the core with the fuel bundles and get to the bottom of the tank and continue with the inspection to find the leakage area.”
The ROV saved significant amounts of money in this mission as it was unnecessary to shut the unit down, dewatering and unfuel the unit with the vehicle entering the water in lieu of human divers.
In addition to locating the leak, the team was able to seal the leakage by taking advantage of the ROV’s versatility. “We actually adapted the ROV to deliver a sealant. So while we were on top of the reactor duct with the ROV we were able to apply a sealant and seal the leakage from the inside.”
After use in the calandria, the ROV had to be decontaminated before any further use. “Over the course of a couple of months we were able to decontaminate the ROV and put it back into service.”
It is always exciting for the Deep Trekker team to hear how our vehicles are being used. We look forward to seeing what our customers do with their vehicles over the next 10 years.
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