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Using an ROV to Inspect Confined Spaces

Rachel Doornekamp   |   May 29, 2020

Regardless of industry, the consistent inspection of underwater infrastructure is paramount to safe and successful operations. Consistent monitoring is necessary to stay on top of the normal wear and tear of day to day operations. Regular inspection also allows operators to catch minor issues before they become big problems, making inspection and subsequent maintenance of facilities an integral part of infrastructure management programs. In order to provide consistent quality output while reducing inspection and maintenance costs, the monitoring and assessment of relevant new technologies and techniques is imperative.

Furthermore, aging infrastructure is a pressing issue among several industries. As key infrastructure and plants continue to age, the importance of routine inspection continues to grow.

As submersible technologies continue to advance, new and better tools for consistent inspection are coming down the pipeline. By providing detailed video and images, along with industry specific tools, Deep Trekker is helping to pave the way of the future for convenient, safe and effective underwater inspection.

The Role of Divers in Inspection

Divers are commonly used for the regular inspection work of underwater infrastructure in industries from hydroelectric power to maritime shipping to storm, sewer and clean water.

Divers are undeniably effective however inspections in confined spaces can be incredibly dangerous. Additionally, confined spaces are often also dark and murky adding to the risks involved in diving in tight spots. In such difficult conditions, dives become exponentially more complex as risks such as entanglement, entrapment, and drowning due to diver panic increase exponentially.

In addition to the dangerous nature of dive inspections, the price of divers can be prohibitive. Deep Trekker spoke to Donald Dupont of GENIFAB to learn more about the role divers and ROVs play in inspection. Dupont said, “The cost of divers was prohibitive for performing preliminary inspections or preventative inspections, it was also difficult to coordinate with their schedules.”The cost of such risky and specialized services comes at a serious premium, plus the time needed for the extensive diver preparations and scheduling, as well as the support facilities required to support divers, can add up quickly. In lieu of sending a human diver underwater, operators can use an ROV for inspection to not only mitigate risks but also effectively reduce the cost of divers.

What are ROVs?

Remotely operated vehicles or ROVs are unoccupied, highly maneuverable vehicles. Submersible ROVs are simply ROVs that are able to investigate ocean depths or submerged infrastructure while being operated by someone on land or on a vessel. These ROVs allow pilots to take photo and video footage to investigate, inspect and explore underwater.

ROVs can range greatly in both size and price. Submersible or underwater ROVs are used in a variety of industries including military, search and rescue, ocean science, aquaculture, energy including oil and gas, shipping, infrastructure and recreational diving among others.

First tested in the 1960’s by the U.S. Navy, underwater ROVs have evolved into sophisticated, versatile vehicles. The benefits of modern ROVs include quick deployment, minimal maintenance, extended dive times, increased safety, high quality video and photo recording, easy to use, cost effective and access to confined areas.

Deep Trekker has two underwater ROV models; the DTG3 and the REVOLUTION . The DTG3 is an intelligent and advanced vehicle. The mini observation-class vehicle is portable and easy to use, allowing operators to quickly deploy and inspect underwater environments.

Mission-ready with serious payload capabilities and advanced stabilization, the REVOLUTION is a completely re-imagined ROV. The patented pending revolving head allows operators to rotate the camera, manipulators and sonar all while station holding in moving water.

ROVs for Inspection

Equipped with a 4k camera and LED lights, Deep Trekker ROVs provide users with a high quality, live view of the submerged infrastructure they are inspecting. In addition to the real-time view, pilots can take photos and videos for further review and documentation.

The ability to conduct underwater inspections at a moment’s notice is greatly beneficial in maximizing efficiency as operators can quickly clear up minor issues and problems. There are times when answers regarding submerged structures are required immediately. Take for instance one occasion Jon Thomas of the Eugene Water and Electric Board shared with Deep Trekker. Thomas and his team noticed that the stoplogs were unable to create a watertight seal, leaving the crew unable to control the water as they needed. Using the ROV, they could see the debris that hindered the beams’ ability to create a seal. The debris was then quickly located and removed, allowing the team to continue on with minimal fuss. Without an ROV, a diver would have to enter this risky area to determine the issue.

Perhaps most importantly, the use of an ROV in lieu of divers, especially in tight spaces, keeps humans safe. The risk to an ROV is much less than the risk to a human life. With the use of an inspection ROV, the danger faced by inspection divers can be effectively mitigated by removing the need for a diver to even enter dangerous conditions.

Finally, the use of an ROV for inspections in lieu of divers allows users to save money in their operations. Thomas noted that, “I could come up with at least 5 times so far where we would have scheduled divers to do what the ROV did.” In swapping an ROV for divers 5 times in a short amount of time, EWEB has been able to generate valuable savings in both time and money.

The use of ROVs is an effective, efficient, safe and cost-saving alternative to scheduling divers.

Diver Assistance

If divers are an absolute necessity for a mission, the use of an ROV can aid greatly in keeping those divers safe, especially in confined spaces.

The ROV can survey dive areas prior to sending down a human being, checking for any potential safety risks and determining the lay of the land. With an ROV, pre-dive checks are safe and quick - providing dive teams with a reliable way to confirm the safety of their mission.

By piloting an ROV to monitor divers, those topside can ensure that divers are safe and following safety protocols. Real-time video observation allows any issues to be caught promptly with immediate emergency assistance if necessary. Whether open water or confined spaces, real time monitoring is incredibly beneficial for scuba diving safety.

Deep Trekker ROVs have the add-on option of diveable control systems. Completely submersible and depth rated to 75m, the handheld controller allows divers to take the entire Deep Trekker ROV system beneath the surface with them. Allowing divers to work closely with an ROV can improve effectiveness, efficiency and safety. In addition to providing divers with a valuable underwater tool, the diveable controller lets divers check out dangerous spaces without having to go in themselves.

Read more about ROVs for Diver Assistance in Commercial Diving in our blog.

Where Can ROVs be Used?

Hydroelectric Plants

Perhaps one of the most common uses for an ROV in confined spaces is on a hydroelectric plant. The inspection of structures in more confined spaces such as intakes and trash racks are necessary but risky tasks. When looking at intake structures, it is imperative that the flow of water is maximized for the production of energy. Using an ROV, intakes can be safely inspected for any potential blockages and foreign objects. Furthermore, an ROV inspection allows operators to ensure that gates and bolts are corrosion free, to ensure that turbines will not be exposed. Nearby trash racks can also be safely inspected with an ROV. Moderate debris can be removed using the grabber arm, while consistent ROV inspection allows pilots to accurately determine when build up is significant enough to call a servicing team.

Recreational Diving

It’s not just commercial divers that can benefit from using an ROV for navigating tight spaces. Recreational divers and ocean explorers can encounter various types of confined spaces when exploring. Take a shipwreck for instance - with an ROV and the diveable control system, users can safely and easily explore the wreck up close without putting themselves in danger or harming the archeological site.

Vessel Inspection

Vessel inspections are absolutely imperative for safe and efficient vessel operations. Safe and efficient ships are important for the overall success of the maritime industry, however when much of the work happens below the surface there are limited options for getting a visual on what is going on. In addition to being expensive, dry docking takes ships out of commission for extended periods of time. Divers are a valid option however ports can be dangerous. With murky conditions, as well as large ships moving in relatively small spaces, hull inspections can be risky for divers. By using an ROV in lieu of divers, humans are kept safe and out of dangerous situations. You can learn more about vessel inspection in our Optimizing Vessel Performance with ROVs.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Deep Trekker ROVs can assist in the navigation of tight spaces take a look at 5 Ways ROVs Benefit Hydroelectric Plants.

In addition to ROVs Deep Trekker also offers CCTV Pipe Crawlers and Utility Crawlers. Everything You Need to Know About Pipe Inspection Robots and Industrial Tank Cleaning Robots offer more information about these vehicles.

Ready to create a custom package of your own? Get your quote today! Have more questions? Reach out to our industry experts!