CORNER BROOK — Aquatic researchers and educators in the Corner Brook area have a new eyeball on the submarine environment.
ACAP Humber Arm has just received a new remotely controlled vehicle that can be sent as far as 175 metres below the surface to explore the bottom of the Bay of Islands or other bodies of water and send images back to the surface.
The VideoRay Explorer 3 is a $15,000 unit that was paid for with funding from the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development. It is considered an Eyeball class vehicle used primarily for observation, compared to the more heavy duty mid-range and working class classes of remotely controlled submersible vehicles.
Sheldon Peddle, ACAP’s executive director, said the potential uses of the machine are still many. It will be used to identify and measure eel grass beds to help get a better understanding of water quality in estuaries and will be featured in this fall’s Trading Books for Boats, a program that educates school students about water quality issues in the Bay of Islands.
“I think it is going to, in a very visual way, show those students exactly what is happening out in the bay,” said Peddle. “We’re going to be able to show them the use of this ocean technology, talk to them about how ROVs are used and some of the eductional and career opportunities that are available to them in the field of ocean technology.”
In terms of doing research into things like coastal erosion, the conditions of environments around sewer outfalls or the health of estuaries, Peddle said the submersible vehicle will be able to more effectively and efficiently do work that would normally require human divers.
“We’re going to be able to undertake a lot more of that kind of work and get a better understanding of what exactly is happening out there in the bay,” he said.
Getting one of these devices has been in the sights of ACAP Humber Arm for years. Now that it has one, Peddle said the ideas of how to use it are coming fast and furious. The vehicle could also be made available to other agencies if they approach ACAP with an idea that is deemed worthy of putting the machine in action.
“If there are other organizations out there who think this may aid them in their research, we’d love to hear from them,” said Peddle. “We’d like to have this in use everyday. It’s a great piece of technology, so let’s put it to use.”
Peddle, other ACAP staff and members of the environmental organization’s board of directors, got to check out the Explorer 3 in the Greenwood Inn and Suites pool Thursday morning.
On hand to show them how it works was Richard VanderVoort, an ROV instructor at the Marine Institute who teaches courses in underwater robotics.VanderVoort said there are indeed many potential uses for the Explorer 3, whether that is surveying the hull of a ship or beneath a dock for port security reasons or for locating valuable items or the body of a drowning victim.
He emphasized, though, that this particular model is primarily used for observation.
“For what their purposes are here, doing close-to-shore coastal waters work, it has plenty of capacity,” said VanderVoort. “This vehicle would be perfect for the eel grass project because they could do sectional swaths of the seabed and literally just record and make an assessment of how much grass is there.”
The electric vehicle is connected to a control console by a 175-metre tether. It has a pressure rating of 300 metres and an extension tether can be added to the 175 - metre it came with.
The console has a video screen and can be hooked up to a recording device to make a digital record of its observations.
Attachments, such as a manipulator that can open and close on subsea objects, may be attached to the vehicle. It is a lightweight unit and is not able to lift heavy objects, but can still be of assistance should there be a large item that needs to be brought to the surface.
“You could take a tag line in the manipulator and attach it to whatever you want to recover,” explained VanderVoort. “The vehicle itself may not have enough power to lift it, but it could put on a tug line to lift it up.”
Whether it is an attachment like that or a second unit capable of going deeper than the Explorer 3, Peddle doesn’t rule out more developments in remotely controlled submersible technology coming to the west coast in the future.
“This one is great for the inner Bay of Islands, but for work in the outer Bay of Islands where it’s deeper, we may want one that can go deeper,” said Peddle. “What we need to be able to do right now is demonstrate the need and the applications of this model. Then we can look at the next steps.”