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Underwater ROVs: What Are They and How Are They Used?


ROV stands for remotely operated vehicle. They are highly maneuverable unoccupied machines used to observe and work underwater, often in areas that are deemed too dangerous for commercial divers. ROV pilots can operate them from a nearby shore or boat.

Remotely operated vehicles are versatile tools commonly used in our industry to inspect, monitor underwater structures, and perform complex work tasks in depths divers cannot access. Although, more recreational ROVs are available with advancements in technology. These revolutionary machines are utilized by many industries to reduce costs to clients and keep divers safe in unknown or dangerous conditions.

A Short History of ROVs

People have long attempted to reach places underwater that are too dangerous or too deep to venture. While trained divers did their best, it wasn’t until 1953 that we came close to success with the first fully developed ROV, POODLE, created by Dimitri Rebikoff. POODLE was an adaptation of his diver scooter with a tether and surface controls.

Photograph of the first remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

In the 1960s, ROV technology started to gain speed when the U.S. Navy took an interest. ROVs were first tested to retrieve underwater information and in 1966, the Navy’s CURV successfully recovered an atomic bomb that went missing off the coast of Spain. By the end of the 1980s, more than 500 ROVs were being used for commercial and military operations around the world as technology advanced. Oil and gas led the charge to this advancement by building ROVs to perform work on offshore platforms in depths up to and beyond 20,000 feet.

Today, ROVs are not just for military or commercial use; micro-class ROVs are available for the public to purchase for exploring shallow waters.


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