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Intelligent Control of Nodes Allows ROVs to 'Talk' With Operators, Self-Assess
New ROV Architecture Gives Operators Remote Access To Diagnostics, Software Upgrades and System Inventory

By Jon Robertson
Engineering Director
Saab Seaeye Ltd.
Hampshire, England

The primary flight screen provides the pilot feedback on navigation, autopilots, primary subsystems and any critical errors or faults.

Previously, operators unsure about the status of components on an ROV would have to make various assumptions about the state of the vehicle. By developing a new architecture, named the intelligent control of nodes (iCON), for its Jaguar and Cougar-XTi ROVs, as well as the Sabertooth 'hybrid' ROV/AUV, Saab Seaeye Ltd. can now allow each device within the ROV to think for itself and 'talk' remotely to operators and engineers. This gives users remote access to diagnostics, software upgrades and system inventory via an enabled Web interface onboard the ROV.

To do this, iCON enables each microprocessor (node) to operate as a sensor and to report its unique status to the central control system. This kind of self-management enables the ROV to better cope with hostile environments and to accommodate breakdown and damage, keeping it working for as long as possible. One of iCON's objectives is to ensure the ROV will survive the loss of one or more systems or components.

The iCON architecture has evolved from the earlier concept of 'intelligent electronics,' introduced with the smallest ROV Seaeye offers, the Falcon. The introduction of intelligent electronics in the Falcon allowed each device on the ROV to have its own microprocessor controlled individually through a single RS-485 serial network with full diagnostics on power-up. It made fault finding and maintenance straightforward, and it gave the operator a plug-and-go simplicity that allowed multiple devices to be added and changed easily for rapid role change during operations.

This concept helped the Falcon achieve a compact size and light weight by saving space through the elimination of the conventional electronics pod packed with circuit boards.

Once intelligent electronics was proven as a concept, it became the starting point for the development of iCON, an advanced, node-based control system architecture with enhanced diagnostics that can be used across a range of ROVs right up to work-class vehicles. As iCON is a telemetry-based system, it can be configured to operate any kind of remote-controlled equipment—underwater or on land.

The iCON concept was built using middleware capable of handling large data volumes and was equipped with sophisticated automatic onboard diagnostic systems, creating a system that allows operators to manage large amounts of data within an ROV in a simple way. To continue this article please click here.

Jon Robertson joined Saab Seaeye in 1998 with a responsibility for special projects. He was appointed engineering director in 2004. During his time with the company, he has led the continual development of the product portfolio and innovations that are shaping the future of ROV technology.

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