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AUGUST 2022 – SUBSEA Control

This month, we are deep diving into the importance of the control systems within subsea robotics and how these systems have evolved over the past 50 years at SMD.

For years ROVs connected to the surface with a cable have been directly controlled by a pilot. Operating in less-than-ideal conditions, be it low visibility, high currents or turbulence, required strong performing ROVs and pilots with high levels of skill. Risk of damage to equipment was high and tasks took longer.

Today we are seeing the emergence of new technologies that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to provide the feedback to the vehicle thrust system, using camera systems, sensors or a mixture of both to not just provide position hold but also navigate safely and even conduct tasks autonomously. With this technology, ROV pilots start taking a more supervisory role and only take direct control in an emergency or for a complex task.

We caught up with Mark Collins, Business Development Director to discuss the importance of ROV control and what’s in store in the future.

He explained: “The industry needs to improve the quality of operation, reduce task time and reduce the number of workers offshore to support carbon neutral, health and safety and work life balance strategies. Advanced and sophisticated technology is the answer.

“However, in order to use the emerging technology successfully, ROVs need to have the ability to process data onboard and act on a command with precision.

“At SMD we have been working hard to provide solutions to de-risk the industry and provide more accurate, reliable results for our customers.  Advanced EV technologies such as those being developed by SMD offer a platform to support next generation autonomy”.

A technology SMD is incorporating into their EV range is Advanced Flight Control. Utilising a microprocessor to directly control the accurate and powerful electric thrusters, it enables advanced algorithms to be run locally. This provides fast update rates resulting in smooth and stable vehicle behavior.

Collins continued: “Two control theories we are employing for our Electric ROV range are Cascade Control and Gain scheduling. The result is dynamic control loops that are constantly adjusting to optimise vehicle performance for conditions. Platform stability and responsiveness is also increased making commands from AI or remote location accurate and predictable – de-risking operations and reducing costs.

“Another benefit is that barriers to entry are reduced for those in sectors such as Aquaculture or Subsea Archeology who would normally steer clear of larger industrial or open ocean robotics which traditionally had high running costs associated with them. In summary, high capability subsea robotics are becoming more accessible which is extremely exciting.”

To find out more about our ROV Advanced Flight Control System, please contact:

Mark Collins, Innovation Director