ROV Buying Guide | Everything You Need to Know Before You Buy
When it comes to any large purchase, it’s important to weigh out all the variables before deciding which option fits your needs the best. Purchasing an ROV is no exception. Understanding each model’s subtle differences and how they benefit specific projects can be a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. The aim of this guide is to help you confidently identify the features/benefits of each Deep Trekker ROV model/package and interpret which option is right for you.
What is an ROV?Underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) are submersible, robotic vehicles, used to observe the depths of large bodies of water by operators from shore. Underwater ROVs are used in a variety of industries: Aquaculture, Search and Rescue, Military, Marine Biology, Oil, Gas, Offshore Energy, Shipping, Submerged Infrastructure, Ocean Exploration and more.
These underwater vehicles allow operators to capture footage during inspect port, harbor or vessel inspections, bring innovation to pipe inspections, locate underwater targets, and conduct water sampling or physical maintenance. By utilizing ROVs, these tasks are all able to be completed without the need for any costly divers.
How Much Should I Spend on an ROV?ROVs can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. It can be confusing to determine what is right for you. Spending more typically means adding capabilities, but does not mean it is necessarily a better fit for the job. How much you should spend on an ROV is heavily dependent on the expected typical usage and core task functions. You can begin by evaluating the most integral functions for your project and choosing the most economical package to fit those requirements.
To create an ROV suited for industrial settings, different builds can accommodate addons like USBL, DVL, environmental, and sonar sensors. These features provide enhanced automation, tracking, vision, and depth features, but can come with a high cost ceiling and aren’t always required for the project at hand. Navigation packages utilizing DVL and USBL can cost $20,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on range and precision, while implementing sonars can range from $6,000 to $300,000. Simple inspections in still water may not need these high end features, and would better benefit from lower cost basic packages, designed for getting underwater visuals quickly and easily.
There are different categories of Remotely Operated Vehicles. Mini and micro class ROVs are swimming cameras that are great options for fast and effective eyes underwater. These can range from a few thousand dollars to $40,000 depending on the sophistication of the model and addons. Inspection and Observation Class ROVs differentiate by equipping more advanced sensors, samplers, and tools, to expand into industrial applications. Their prices range between $15,000 and $250,000. Light Work Class and Work Class ROVs are large, crane deployed ROVs, typically with great depth capabilities (thousands of meters), powerful manipulator arms capable of construction, welding, and more. These ROVs are best suited for heavy industrial use, and range from $250,000 to millions of dollars, and often require specialized operation training, heavy support equipment and vessels.
Considerations when choosing an ROVROVs are incredibly versatile devices, capable of a wide range of tasks. Because of this, there are a variety of features and add-ons that can be extremely beneficial for some industries, and lackluster for others. For example, using an ROV for storage tank inspections in a controlled still-water environment would have drastically different needs than an open water Search and Rescue (SAR) Team.
Intended TasksEvaluate what features are most important to your industry’s daily tasks. ROVs are capable of equipping addons such as environmental sensors, thickness gauges, positioning systems, sonar, cleaning tools, and more. Identify what is needed for your particular project, and then select the most cost effective appropriate model / package to fit those needs.
PortabilityDepending on the amount of travel or operational maneuvering, such as carrying an ROV to the top of a water tank, it’s important to consider the form factor of an ROV. Mini ROVs can fit into a single case for air travel as a checked bag, and are light enough to be carried while climbing a ladder. Larger observation or work class ROVs may come with additional features, but could be completely unusable for remote work environments.
ROV Control Through CurrentStill water environments like water tank inspections will have little to no current, making it ideal for mini ROVs to conduct inspections. For offshore or high current situations, more advanced observation class models are required for enhanced control through stronger currents.
However, it’s not just size or power alone of the ROV that determines its ability to work in current. An ROV that utilizes sensor fusion and will maximize its positioning capabilities through its intuitive software. Just like people, ROVs can work smarter, not harder!
Water ClarityIdeally an imaging sonar would be on every ROV. It’s an incredibly helpful tool for most missions as it helps identify large objects from distances up to 120m (394ft), and provides clarity on objects through murky water. The reality is that imaging sonars can cost upwards of $20,000+, and not every project or application needs a sonar to be effective. In clear water, or if operations are in an enclosed area where it is easy to get visual references (such as under the hull of a ship or in a water storage tank), then you can likely conduct a successful mission without sonar.
Depth RatingWorking at depths? Always check the ROV depth rating before committing to a purchase. If the main goal of an ROV is to inspect or retrieve deep sea assets like seismic nodes, ensure that the depth rating is adequate for the mission. Deep Trekker offers ROVs up to 305m depth rating and tethers up to 700m. Large Work Class ROVs can work to 11,000m!
Choosing the Right ROV for Your Industry
AquacultureTypical usage within aquaculture includes net / mooring inspections and maintenance, mort pushing, and environmental sampling. Simple inspections can be completed with a basic mini ROV setup, but adding USBL positioning or Heading/Depth Sensors will help provide location information for points of interest. This creates a more robust inspection system and cuts down on dive times by offering exact positioning on breaches or other points of interest.
A grabber arm can also be implemented for object retrievals, or be used to utilize tools like net patch kits, mort diggers, or water quality sensors to build a dissolved oxygen profile. The DTG3 Package and PIVOT Smart are commonly used as a cost effective ROV solution for these tasks.
Infrastructure (Civil Engineering)For dam, intake, bridge, and piling inspections, it’s important to understand the typical operating water clarity. If the water is relatively calm and clear, a general visual inspection can be completed using a mini ROV such as the DTG3.
If these inspections require more significant structure detail, or are being conducted in challenging environments (High current / murky water), it may be beneficial to purchase a more powerful ROV with sonar functions. The DTG3 Package or PIVOT Expert with M3000 sonar are most commonly purchased for civil engineering applications.
EnergyFor Nuclear Power, internal tank inspections are often in clear water. Due to the inherent potential hazards when working with nuclear energy, having a precise visual is integral. Implementing high quality zoom cameras and enhanced 4K cameras are the key to successful nuclear inspections. Deep Trekker’s REVOLUTION ROV equipped with a 4K camera and zoom lens is a popular system for these types of inspections.
For Hydroelectricity, inspecting intakes or sluice gates for proper function may just require a basic visual. Mini ROVs such as the DTG3 can accomplish the inspection and can be the preferential option for working in tight spaces. Some dams with higher flow and murkier water conditions would be better suited for the more powerful REVOLUTION or PIVOT equipped with sonar. The DTG3 Package or PIVOT Expert with M3000 sonar are the most commonly purchased models for Hydro.
Search & Rescue (SAR)Target Search and Identification missions are far more effective with an imaging sonar. Having a ROV that can also tilt the sonar is a huge advantage. This allows the operator to change the angle and optimize the field of view to fit any situation. However if budget constraints are an issue, an ROV without a sonar is still a helpful tool for missions, as it still provides a method to quickly deploy eyes underwater.
Beyond the search and verification of a drowning victim or evidence thrown overboard, ROVs can also assist with victim recovery. Using an ROVs grabber claw, the operator can latch onto and retrieve the target by pulling back on the tether. The ROV pilot also has the option to place a carabiner with a line onto the target. For more sensitive retrievals, teams can also have the ROV hold in place on the target, and deploy divers to follow the tether down for extraction.
The REVOLUTION or PIVOT Expert with M1200 are excellent ROV options for SAR missions. The M1200 sonar offers high quality imagery at ranges up to 30m (98ft). Experienced operators do not identify targets from further than 30m away from the target. This vindicates the limited range of the M1200 in comparison of the M750 and M370 sonars, since the tradeoff is enhanced clarity for superior identification. The interlocking jaws (small and large) are also useful addons for victim recoveries, as they are better suited for sensitive retrievals in comparison to the teeth of the grabber claw.
Commercial DivingVessel Inspections, Ship Husbandry, and Naval Damage Control are all common uses of ROVs in commercial diving. Whether it’s for emergencies, security, or maintenance, the first consideration during ship hull inspections is the strength of the opposing current. Mini ROVs may struggle in currents that observation ROVs such as the REVOLUTION and PIVOT can handle. Sonar can be a beneficial addon for murky water conditions, or on larger ships to identify large defects or welded foreign objects. Common packages differ depending on the desired scenario of the inspection:
- For quick easy inspections: DTG3 Package or PIVOT Smart.
- For thorough inspections: REVOLUTION with M3000 Imaging Sonar, Cygnus Thickness Gauge, CP Probe.
- Bonus tool - DT640 MAG Crawler with M3000 Imaging Sonar is an excellent tool for hull inspections, since it is attached to the surface it is inspecting, it does not face effects from strong currents, and is a great complement to an ROV.
ROVs are an effective method to add or enhance streams of business for a dive company, as some of their customers may prefer the ensured safety of ROV inspection. Having an ROV on hand provides more diverse service options to offer and market.
Many projects for commercial dive teams require pre-inspections, bid surveys to evaluate the budget for the project, or can benefit from having another pair of eyes for dive monitoring. A simple mini ROV like the DTG3 can be a useful asset in this case.
ROVs can also be used to identify unexploded ordnance and mines underwater. Using a ROV that has an imaging sonar is key, similar to SAR. These missions can cover long distances, so utilizing USBL for position tracking and autopilot functionality is extremely helpful. The PIVOT NAV and REVOLUTION NAV with M750 imaging sonars are most popular in these cases, due to the long distance sonar capabilities and in-depth navigation features.
Deep Trekker offers a comprehensive lineup of ROVs to suit all of the above industry tasks on nearly any budget. With predesigned packages plus customizable addons, it’s easy to build the perfect ROV to fit your specific needs.
Whats the difference between Deep Trekker ROVs
Deep Trekker’s ROV lineup includes the DTG3, PIVOT, and REVOLUTION. The DTG3 is a mini observation-class underwater ROV built to deploy rapidly and quickly conduct visual inspections in underwater environments. Its lightweight design provides exceptional portability, but limits its power and feature capabilities, such as DVL sensor upgrades or an integrated tool platform. It operates using a three thruster design, meaning the operator will have to manipulate the pitch or yaw for vertical and lateral movements. The DTG3 is an excellent affordable option for simple underwater inspections.
The PIVOT and REVOLUTION are true observation class ROVs. Engineered with carbon fiber and stainless steel, the REVOLUTION delivers dramatic power, enhanced capabilities and inspiring performance in harsh conditions. The PIVOT offers a similar design to the REVOLUTION, but its scaled down size provides improved portability and maneuverability in tight spaces. Both models utilize six vectored thrusters to complete vertical and lateral movements, and come integrated with rotating tool platforms capable of carrying out a variety of tasks.
The REVOLUTION ROV is the most powerful, intelligent, and stable ROV in the Deep Trekker lineup. Its six vectored thrusters provide unmatched control in harsh underwater conditions, and when combined with its 305m depth rating, make it ideal for complex deep ocean missions.
The integrated camera + grabber arm is capable of rotating up to 260 degrees. This wide range of view means seamless transitions of focus points. The pilot can look up during a hull inspection , rotate to scan a wall, pan along the seafloor, or get the best angle to manipulate an object, all without changing the ROV’s position.
A favorite feature of many operators is the rotating capability when adding an imaging sonar. With this ROV add-on, you can adjust the angle to sweep targets and get precise viewing angles. Because of its stable design and vertical thrusters which enable lateral movements, the REVOLUTION provides excellent performance with USBL and Sonar.
You can also rely on up to six hours of battery operating time from a full charge. Thanks to the quick-change battery system, it's also extremely easy to perform field battery changes in well under a minute.
REVOLUTION BASE PACKAGEThe REVOLUTION Base package includes the BRIDGE integrated controller + SD Card, and the ROV itself. It comes equipped with the 260 degree rotating camera head and grabber, LED floodlights and a 10cm laser scaler for accurate estimations of object sizes. The base package includes a battery set as well as a spare set to efficiently swap for extended missions.
The batteries take just 30 seconds to change and one and a half to three hours to recharge, meaning virtually endless power if you ladder charging between uses. If you prefer constant direct power, there is a direct power option for the REVOLUTION as well as the PIVOT ROVs.
The REVOLUTION Base package also includes a 300m tether on a tether reel but can be upgraded to 700m. To bring it all together, two rugged pelican carrying cases are included to house the whole system; providing excellent portability for such an advanced system.
REVOLUTION NAV PACKAGEThe REVOLUTION NAV package takes everything in the base package and adds advanced piloting capabilities with USBL and DVL sensors. These sensors enable the ability to track the ROV on a map, log points of interest, draw a trail, plan missions, and even deploy autonomous routes with the mission planner feature. This means the NAV package can navigate to set targets and perform pre-programmed routes, allowing the pilot to focus on the camera and sonar feeds instead of operation.
On top of this, these sensors have the capability to enable ‘auto-depth’ from the seafloor, as well as produce GPX and CSV files to house location data during operation. The NAV package also includes a service parts kit and an extended two year warranty for a completely comprehensive experience.
The perfect balance between size and power. The PIVOT maintains an impressive six thruster design powered by swappable lithium ion batteries, and 305m depth rating just like the REVOLUTION. Unlike the REVOLUTION, the PIVOT’s overall body size is 13.4% smaller, and cuts its weight down to 37lbs, compared to the REVOLUTION’s 57lbs.
The camera and tool platform on the PIVOT operate on separate rotating fields. With the camera being capable of rotating up to 220 degrees for a wide viewing range to complete a multitude of tasks. The 97 degree rotating tool platform gives pilots the advantage of flexible imaging options and convenient tool manipulation from a stable position. Due to its similarities in control and stability to the REVOLUTION, the PIVOT also provides excellent performance with USBLs, DVLs and Imaging Sonars.
PIVOT Smart PackageThe PIVOT Smart package includes the BRIDGE integrated controller + SD Card and the ROV itself. It comes equipped with: the 220 degree rotating camera head, six precision thrusters, and LED floodlights to illuminate your targets.
The Smart package comes with a 100m tether on a reel and one battery for immediate operation. You will also receive two rugged Pelican carrying cases to house the entire system for enhanced portability. The smart package is the ideal basic setup for visual inspections in higher current conditions while maintaining a lower total cost.
PIVOT Expert PackageThe PIVOT Expert package includes everything listed out in the Smart package, and it adds the 97 degree tilting tool platform. The tool platform is capable of housing a variety of add-ons, and comes included with a grabber claw in the Expert package. Upgrading to the Expert means you will receive a 150m tether instead of 100m, and a spare battery set for quick swaps to maintain power on extended missions.
PIVOT NAV PackageThe NAV Package is the most comprehensive package offered for the PIVOT. On top of everything included in the Expert package, it adds the same USBL and DVL sensors that enable the advanced navigation features of the REVOLUTION NAV. USBL and DVL sensors enable you to track the ROV on a map, log points of interest and a trail, plan missions, and deploy autonomous routes via mission planner. These sensors also have the ability to produce comprehensive GPX and CSV data for reports. With the NAV package, you will also receive a service kit, 300m tether and two year extended warranty for peace of mind.
Common REVOLUTION & PIVOT Addons
The most common add-ons for the PIVOT and REVOLUTION are:
- Imaging Sonar Systems. With over half a dozen options available, these aid in navigation and target identification through murky conditions.
- Manipulator and Water Sampler Bundles. Grabber claws, water/sediment samplers, cutters, and mort pushers ensure readiness for a range of physical tasks.
- Thickness Gauges. The Cygnus Thickness Gauge Integration allows the operator to evaluate the thickness of steel on tanks, hulls or other metal surfaces.
- Environmental Sensors. Water quality sondes and dissolved oxygen sensors provide insights to key parameters like Temperature/Conductivity, pH/ORP, or Chlorophyll A.
- Extended tethers. With upgrades available up to 700m, extended tethers are optimal for longer range projects.
The DTG3 is the ultimate in ROV portability. For a cost effective alternative to the PIVOT or REVOLUTION, the DTG3 provides the same exceptional Full HD (4K upgradable) camera in a durable yet lightweight 18lbs vehicle. Coming expedition ready right out of the box, you can deploy in under 30 seconds. With operating battery life of up to eight hours, you can maintain operation for the whole work day.
The DTG3 comes equipped with three thrusters and a patented pitch system that allows for flexible operations and rapid descent capabilities. The DTG3’s 270 degree rotating camera offers a massive range of view for ship hulls, sea floors, and everything in between, without any need to maneuver thrusters.
The whole system fits into a single rugged Pelican case which can be taken as checked luggage during travel, making its portability unparalleled. At a price tag of $8,500USD, the DTG3 offers industrial quality accompanied by 5-star customer service at an aggressively competitive price.
DTG3 PackageThe DTG3 package includes the intuitive BRIDGE integrated controller, 64GB SD Card, and an entire ROV system all out of a single case. This single case design allows you to take your commercial grade inspection system anywhere.
The DTG3 package comes standard with a 75m tether and tether reel. However, you can upgrade up to 200m on the included reel and can be increased up to 700m on a larger reel. The DTG3 also comes with three sets of LED floodlights to illuminate your focus point during complex or dark inspection scenarios.
Common DTG3 Addons
The most common add-ons for the DTG3 include
- The Grabber - A grabber arm enables the DTG3 to carry out a variety of tasks such as retrieving objects, holding tools, or deploying equipment.
- Laser Scaler - Two lasers separated by one inch instantly offer a size estimation during visual inspections.
- USBL Positioning - The SeaTrac Ultra Short Baseline Locating system allows you to gain awareness of the relative position of your ROV, as well as set waypoints along your dive
- Thickness gauge - To evaluate the thickness of steel on tanks, hulls or other metal surfaces.
- Environmental Sensors - Water quality sondes and dissolved oxygen sensors provide insights to key parameters like Temperature/Conductivity, pH/ORP, or Chlorophyll A
- Extended Tether - With upgrades available up to 700m, extended tethers are optimal for longer range projects.
Deep Trekker Universal Product Features
BRIDGE enables capabilities such as sensor fusion, optimizing positioning sensors, and camera enhancements such as underwater image optimization, auto-stabilization, and zero latency. Zero latency allows for easy control without the lag seen on mobile device operated drones.
1080p or 4K Camera ModulesEach ROV package comes equipped with a standard 1080p Camera and the option to upgrade to an enhanced custom 4K camera. The Full HD 1080p standard camera is an excellent choice for a wide variety of tasks, and benefits from a smaller file size for extended videos.
The enhanced 4K camera upgrade delivers incredibly sharp videos to distinguish any fine details or irregularities during underwater inspections. The ultra wide lens on the 4K upgrade also allows for more content to fit on screen, and provides superior detail at shorter focal lengths. See a comparison between the 1080p and 4K here:
Intuitive Controller with Multi-Feed DisplayFull integration with imaging sonars and positioning systems allow you to view your underwater sonar, map positioning, and video feed all on one easy-to-read screen. If you prefer to extend your displays to larger screens, you can quickly connect a laptop or monitor via HDMI from the controller.
Every package also includes the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor package, which provides depth, heading, pitch, roll, turns count, and water temperature displays. The IMUs, pressure sensors, and magnetic compass combined with BRIDGE technology allow for stabilization features such as auto depth, auto heading, and active yaw stabilization. Active yaw stabilization helps the ROV pilot drive straight through the water to a target even through strong current.
The Deep Trekker DifferenceDeep Trekker offers easy to use, portable and affordable underwater ROVs, capable of handling an incredibly diverse list of tasks. Along with the ROVs, experienced senior ROV team members are only an email or phone call away. When you buy an ROV from Deep Trekker, you buy the team, the ideas, the vision, and the support.
Our ROVs are designed by listening to our customers and reinventing to meet their needs. We are a group of innovators, creators, expert engineers, technologists and dreamers of the underwater world. Our team is committed to providing YOU with the best ROV to get the job done.
"Last time we looked there was not an ROV that competes at [Deep Trekkers] price point; considering size, function, features and customer service, two thumbs up!" - Bruce Gray, Operations Officer, Environment Canada.
As always, our team of industry professionals is here to answer any questions you may have about how submersible robots can aid in your next project. When you’re ready to get a vehicle of your own, reach out to get your own customized quote .
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