A Brief History of ROVs

According to The Remotely Operated Vehicle Committee of the Marine Technology Society: “Exactly who to credit with developing the first ROV will probably remain clouded, however, there are two who deserve credit. The PUV (Programmed Underwater Vehicle) was a torpedo developed by Luppis-Whitehead Automobile in Austria in 1864, however, the first tethered ROV, named POODLE, was developed by Dimitri Rebikoff in 1953.”

In late 1960s, the U.S. Navy began developing robots to help locate and recover underwater ordnance. By the 1980s, commercial companies began utilizing the technology to aid in the oil and gas industry. Now, ROVs are used in all manner of exploration and commercial applications, from dam and water-tank inspections to evidence recovery, pipeline maintenance, aquaculture and drowning-victim recovery.

For example, James City County in Virginia has a Marine Patrol and Underwater Search and Recovery Team that recently used its JW Fishers SeaOtter-2 ROV on a operation involving a submersed vehicle in a retention pond behind a hospital. The ROV revealed that no bodies were inside and helped divers see the make and model of the vehicle and the condition of most of the vehicle prior to getting in the water. From the information obtained via ROV, the team discovered that the vehicle had been stolen two years earlier. It was unknown how long it had been in the pond. 

The team has also used its SeaOtter-2 in a regional public-safety dive-training event to assist an archeological dive survey of the ships scuttled by General Cornwallis along the York River in Yorktown, Virginia. The ROV was used to identify any visible ship remains from the Revolutionary War. 

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