The 'thinking' ROV

1st February 2013

Precise and instantaneous feedback means the operator no longer has to make assumptions about the state of the ROV

An remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that thinks for itself and can talk remotely to operators and engineers anywhere in the world is the new concept from engineers at Saab Seaeye.

Through a gateway into the heart of the vehicle, users can access diagnostics, software upgrades and system inventory directly over an enabled web interface.

Called iCON (the intelligent control of nodes), the concept enables each microprocessor (node), to report its unique status to the central control system − and take action if necessary.

Such precise and instantaneous feedback means the operator no longer has to make assumptions about the state of the ROV.

Essentially, iCON manages three modes: operational, diagnostic and update.
In the case of a thruster, for example, the operational mode controls, start, stop, speed and direction; the diagnostic mode gives a health check and allows interrogation of parameters such as power, temperature, hours run and vibration; the update mode allows new control software to be downloaded to the thruster when updates are available and new features are introduced.
Should an operator want to add or enhance equipment on board, interfaces have been standardised into a common unambiguous format to make the task easier.

Also, the introduction of new systems and their successful integration will be speeded-up using development and de-bugging tools built around iCON.
Recognising that an ROV works in a hazardous environment, and is likely to suffer a system failure at some time, iCON brings to the ROV a new self-awareness of each device on board that makes it easier to survive the loss of one or more system or component − and keep working.

For instance, should a thruster get entangled, iCON instantly recognises a load problem and shuts itself down. At the same time it alerts the rest of the system so that the remaining thrusters automatically compensate for the loss of the compromised thruster and keep the ROV under control.

Before iCON, the only warning a pilot had was when the ROV started going round in circles leaving him battling for control and boosting power, unaware of the potential damage being done to the thruster.
Now the pilot can concentrate on completing the task in hand before retrieving the ROV.

Back on deck, iCON will identify the problem and the repair needed, also what tools are required and the skill level necessary.
If required, engineers at Saab Seaeye can remotely interrogate the problem on the ROV wherever it is in the world, directly over the web, and assist the user in diagnostics and repair.

With each device constantly sensing its state of health and instantly reporting back a problem, the operator not only has greater control, but their role is made much easier and simpler.

And not only does iCON generate a system failure alert, but will predict it.
This is made possible because data is both active and historical, and therefore capable of arriving at a dynamically analytical predictive conclusion.

Usage hours on components are tracked, and problems that might be brewing highlighted. Therefore it predicts when and if a device will fail and alerts maintenance crew before a problem occurs.
It means operators are better able to keep a vehicle in operation than would otherwise be possible.

Spares management is also improved as remote examination of systems within the ROV by the operator allows him to accurately monitor both equipment and spares inventory through its part numbers and serial numbers.

For more information, visit
Fig. 1. Top of the range Jaguar is a fully iCON-centred work ROV.

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