The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Robot vehicle opens marine route

Durgapur, April 21: The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute here has scored a first. It has come up with a robotic system capable of underwater exploration. The system is the first remote-controlled equipment of its kind made in India.

Designed and built in association with the Department of Ocean Development, the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) has the ability to survey the seabed and identify debris. Besides, the vehicle can collect data for oceanographic studies, map marine life and take pictures as well as carry out surveys of off-shore structures.

The leader of the institute’s robotics and automation group, S.N. Shome, said the successful development of the ROV is a shot in the arm for the organisation. “After successful testing of the ROV up to a depth of 200 meters, the Department of Ocean Development was encouraged to initiate two more projects with the institute,” said Shome.

The new projects include the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle for depths up to 150 m in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and devising another ROV capable of operating up to 300 m under water.

“The ROV may be considered a milestone as sophisticated underwater robots, being high-technology devices, are generally not available from foreign sources, even if we agree to pay a very high price for them,” said Gopal Prashad Sinha, the director of the engineering research institute.

The first indigenously-developed ROV will end the dependence on foreign equipment and expert divers and is expected to pave the way for more sophisticated equipment for commercial and research requirements.

The system consists of an open frame structure with hollow cylindrical buoyancy packages, landing pads, a sub-sea control box, propulsion thrusters and an array of navigation and payload sensors.

An underwater camera system provides visual information of the environment. Its positive buoyancy eliminates any chance of losing it within a radius of 200 m of operating space. Of the five thrusters, two are used for forward, backward and rotary motion, two for vertical motion and the other for lateral motion.

The system is operated either on joystick or computer-control mode through a control console on a mother ship. The sea trial of the system, with active support from the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, was conducted in August 2001 from the research vessel, Siderenko.

The system can be of great help to the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, the Indian Oil Corporation, the Geological Survey of India, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Coast Guard and the National Institute of Oceanography.

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