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Robots not smart enough yet for Navy deep-ocean missions.

Searching for downed airplanes and sunken ships in deep ocean waters--and raising them to the surface--are laborious operations that have yet to benefit from futuristic robotics technologies.

Since a U.S. Navy remotely operated vehicle Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) is the common accepted name for tethered underwater robots in the offshore industry. ROVs are unoccupied, highly maneuverable and operated by a person aboard a vessel.  successfully recovered a nuclear bomb in 2,800 feet of ocean water nearly four decades ago, sensors and other technologies have advanced significantly--even though the basic techniques remain essentially the same.

The big breakthrough that the robotics industry has been seeking for the past 20 years--autonomous vehicles that can think independently--is finally here, but the technology is not yet mature or affordable enough for most users of deep-ocean salvage equipment.

Among the most cumbersome features of current underwater vehicles is the umbilical cable An umbilical cable or umbilical is a cable which supplies necessary requirements to an apparatus. It is named for its similar function to an umbilical cord. An umbilical can supply power to a remote electrical device or a more elaborate design can supply air and power to a , which slows down the search process, particularly when the area being probed is 10,000 or 20,000 feet deep, says Tom Salmon. He is in charge of salvage operations and ocean engineering under the Navy's supervisor of salvage and diving, known as SUPSALV SUPSALV Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (US Navy NAVSEA) .

The agency has been involved in high-profile salvage operations, such as the recovery of the Japanese trawler Ehime Maru--sunk in the Pacific last year after a collision with the submarine USS USS
1. United States Senate

2. United States ship

USS abbr (= United States Ship) → Namensteil von Schiffen der Kriegsmarine
 Greenville--and the lifting last month of the 160-ton gun turret of the Civil War vessel USS Monitor USS Monitor was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the United States Navy. She is most famous for her participation in the first-ever naval battle between two ironclad warships, the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862 during the American Civil War, in which .

The current generation of tethered Attached to a data or power source by wire or fiber. Contrast with untethered.  sonar search systems, says Salmon, might be replaced with autonomous underwater vehicles | An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) is a robot which travels underwater. Sometimes called Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, these devices are powered by batteries or fuel cells and can operate in water as deep as 6000 meters.  within a decade, if the technology matures.

"We've probably built our last deep-ocean search system" that operates with an umbilical, he says. "Sometime in the next 10 years, I would predict that we'll be going untethered Unattached to any data or power source by wire or fiber; in other words: wireless. Contrast with tethered. , at least for search vehicles."

There is more than one definition for vehicle autonomy, Salmon explains. Under one concept, the vehicle dives and conducts a preprogrammed search. It then comes back to the surface, so operators aboard the ship can download the data and images of what the submersible submersible, small, mobile undersea research vessel capable of functioning in the ocean depths. Development of a great variety of submersibles during the later 1950s and 1960s came about as a result of improved technology and in response to a demonstrated need for  saw.

Under a more advanced form of autonomy, the vehicle would be linked acoustically, through the water, to the ship. If the submersible found a potential target, the human operator could instruct it to hover over a spot, take pictures and transmit them. "That's the true autonomous system A network that is administered by a single set of management rules that are controlled by one person, group or organization. Autonomous systems often use only one routing protocol, although multiple protocols can be used. The core of the Internet is made up of many autonomous systems. , Salmon notes. That technology is not ready for prime time not ready for prime time - Usable, but only just so; not very robust; for internal use only. Said of a program or device. Often connotes that the thing will be made more solid Real Soon Now. . Nevertheless, he says, "I think we are getting a lot closer than I ever thought we would during my career."

In the short term, Salmon says, SUPSALV officials would like to see increased use of untethered search systems, such as side-scan sonar Side-scan sonar (also sometimes called side scan sonar, sidescan sonar, side looking sonar, side-looking sonar and bottom classification sonar  or TV cameras. Current tethered devices commonly are referred to as "tow fish."

The advantages of not having a tow cable are numerous, says Salmon. The tether tether

to tie an animal up by the head or neck so that it can graze but not move away. See also barton tether.
 makes the operation highly dependent on the weather and the sea conditions, he explains. During a typical salvage mission, "We are trying to figure out where that tow fish is behind us. If we are towing in deep water, we may have 20,000 or 30,000 feet of cable strung behind the ship."

Knowing the exact location of the tow fish is important, Salmon notes, in order to plot an estimated position of the target.

The existing remotely-piloted hydraulic-operated vehicles used in salvage operations are relatively old, but quite dependable, he adds. Some recent upgrades primarily involve the sensors, which the Navy has incorporated over time, as the industry developed more sophisticated TV cameras and sonars.

Salmon expects that the next step in the modernization of SUPSALV equipment is the introduction of untethered sensor vehicles that can function autonomously. The batteries available today make it possible to send a search vehicle to swim around, probe the area and come back. "It does not take a tremendous amount of power to do that," he says. "You can get enough hours out of the battery to make it worthwhile to do that."

But that is as far as robotic and propulsion technologies can go today. The heavy-duty ROVs--the actual work vehicles that dive deep, identify targets and figure out a way to grab them and raise them to the surface--cannot operate autonomously, given the current state of technology. "That requires some muscle, some heavy work," says Salmon.

The Navy's work-class ROV ROV Remotely Operated Vehicle
ROV Real Options Valuation
ROV Return on Value
ROV Range of View
ROV Rostov, Russia - Rostov (Airport Code)
ROV Roll-Over Valve (automotive fuel tanks)
ROV Range of Value
 used to pick up aircraft debris operates in 20,000 feet of water. These are known as Cable-controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicles. The Navy's first CURV CURV Curve
CURV Cable-controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle
CURV Cable-controlled Underwater Research Vehicle
CURV Controlled Unmanned Recovery Vehicle
CURV Combined Unit Reactor Vessel
 dove 2,800 feet to recover an atomic bomb atomic bomb or A-bomb, weapon deriving its explosive force from the release of atomic energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy nuclei (see nuclear energy). The first atomic bomb was produced at the Los Alamos, N.Mex.  that fell from an Air Force B-52 bomber in the mid 1960s, off the coast of Spain. The Navy subsequently upgraded the CUR Vs, to support torpedo testing in depths of up to 20,000 feet in West Coast ranges. In later years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 Navy lost at least two CURVs in mishaps. The current model, the CURV III, was built 15 years ago. SUPSALV also owns a so-called Advanced Unmanned Search System, which became a test bed in the 1980s for further research on autonomous underwater operations.

CURV-type vehicles will not be autonomous, for the foreseeable future, says Salmon. "The battery technology isn't there to really support a work-class remote vehicle s ystem," he adds. "I'm nor sure when we are going to get around using the umbilical for those guys."

However, the Navy's Orion Search System--a side-scanning sonar tow-fish--eventually will be untethered, says Salmon.

Small recovery ROVs, such as the Navy's Deep Drone The Deep Drone is a submersible remotely operated vehicle designed for mid-water salvage for the United States Navy. One vehicle is based in Largo, Maryland, under the command of The U.S. , which operates in 7,200 feet of water, conceivably could be converted to battery powered mode, since their missions tend to last only a couple of hours. Currently, the Deep Drone is electrically powered by a diesel generator A diesel generator is the combination of a diesel engine with an electrical generator (often called an alternator) to generate electric energy.

Diesel generators are used in places without connection to the power grid or as emergency power-supply if the grid fails.
 or the power system of the host vessel.

Small ROVs get widespread use throughout the Navy. They are the workhorses for mine-hunting and ordnance-disposal units. Scientists use them to map the ocean. Most ROVs used by the commercial off-shore oil, gas and civil engineering industries are much smaller than the Navy's CURVs, and operate in less than 1,000 feet of water. For SUPSALV operations, routine depths range from 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

As long as umbilicals remain standard equipment in ROVs, the Navy could benefit greatly from power-conducting technologies, says Salmon. "We need the R&D [research and development] guys to come up with a more efficient way to transmit power down the cable."

Water currents also present problems during salvage operations, especially near the Gulf Stream, where many aircraft-recovery missions take place. During a recent helicopter recovery off the coast of Norfolk, Va., says Salmon, "We would be working one day with minimal amount of current, and the next day we would have 5 knots of current. ... We couldn't launch the [CURV] vehicle."

Aircraft recovery demands both scientific and creative skills sometimes, he says. "F-14s don't look the same after they crash. ... These airplanes go into thousands and thousands of pieces. We have to look, inspect and then figure out how we are going to salvage it."

No two operations are the same. "I can't tell you today how we would salvage a plane that crashes tomorrow, even though we done hundreds of them," says Salmon.

The difficulties created by the water current could be alleviated somewhat if the umbilical cable were smaller in diameter, he says.

Most Navy ROV cables are about an inch and a half or more in diameter. "If we are working in 10,000 feet of water, you got a cable that is 10,000 feet long and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, that's a lot of funnel area for the current to impact," Salmon says. "There is a lot of drag on Verb 1. drag on - last unnecessarily long
drag out

last, endure - persist for a specified period of time; "The bad weather lasted for three days"

 that cable. If we can reduce the size of the cable, then we can operate much more efficiently." Modern commercial ROVs, by comparison, tend to have smaller cables, with diameters of 1.25 inches or less.

Sensor technologies, meanwhile, are improving, he adds. But shortfalls remain. TV systems and acoustic imaging capabilities are "getting better," says Salmon. TV cameras, however, can only see as far as the lights will project in water, about 25-40 feet. Beyond that, sonar is needed. "As we dose in on it, we try to get to the spot with our TV cameras," Salmon explains. "Right now, that takes a lot of time."

Salvage crews, he says, would like to have more advanced capabilities in acoustic imaging and sonar sensors that work from standoff ranges.

With acoustic sensors, images are created by the return from the burst of energy generated by the acoustic equipment. The process is comparable to underwater radar. With advanced computer graphics and imagery, the sonar data can produce three-dimensional derailed pictures.

"If we can do a better job of imaging the target acoustically and identify it with a sonar, then get a really good acoustic image from 200-300 feet away, you could differentiate, for example, a piece of pipe from a torpedo or a lost bomb, or a 55-gallon drum," says Salmon. Those 55-gallon drums are a dime a dozen in the ocean. "We spend a lot of time identifying 55-gallon drums, when we are really looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 a torpedo."

Autonomous underwater vehicles are available in the commercial industry, but they are largely experimental systems, says Kenneth Cast, vice president of Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc., in San Leandro San Leandro (săn lēăn`drō), city (1990 pop. 68,223), Alameda co., W Calif., on San Francisco Bay; inc. 1872. Metal, wood, and paper products; chemicals; leather goods; foods and beverages; medical equipment; lighting fixtures; and , Calif.

The biggest technical challenge in this arena is inertial navigation Noun 1. inertial navigation - a method of controlling the flight of a missile by devices that respond to inertial forces
inertial guidance

steering, guidance, direction - the act of setting and holding a course; "a new council was installed under the
, which helps vehicles figure out how to avoid obstacles. Most of the time, "they get stuck," says Cast. "They run out of ideas of what they are going to do to get out." Autonomous vehicles, additionally, are "extremely expensive, compared to an ROV."

It is up to the U.S. government to decide whether SUPSALV crews will be called upon to salvage an aircraft or ship. At times, the Navy chooses to fund an underwater salvage operation so it can give divers an opportunity to train.

The deeper the recovery, the higher the price tag, says Salmon. "We don't do many operations that are deeper than 10,000 feet." When greater depths are involved, the costs can be astronomical. "The biggest cost factors are mobilization and demobilization de·mo·bil·ize  
tr.v. de·mo·bil·ized, de·mo·bil·iz·ing, de·mo·bil·iz·es
1. To discharge from military service or use.

2. To disband (troops).
," he says. That means moving the equipment from a warehouse in the Washington, D.C., area, by air or by truck to a port, then on to a Navy or commercial ship.

Cast of Salvage

The cost of recovering an airplane ranges from $300,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the transportation arrangements. A crew of nine to 12 typically is needed, without counting the ship operators.

A key consideration in aircraft recovery is whether the airplane had a pinger ping·er  
A device used underwater to produce pulses of sound, as for an echo sounder.


a device that makes a pinging sound, esp. a timer

Noun 1.
, a device that produces pinging noises, so it's easier to detect. "If we detect the pinger, then we very quickly shift to sonar mode and verify that we have a good debris field that looks like the crashed airplane," Salmon explains. If the pinger can't be found--because it burned in the crash or has been buried by debris--the recovery takes much longer. In such cases, the airplane can be located using Global Positioning System Global Positioning System: see navigation satellite.
Global Positioning System (GPS)

Precise satellite-based navigation and location system originally developed for U.S. military use.
 satellite navigation.

Commercial airlines as a rule do not seek the Navy's help to lift aircraft wreckage from the ocean. SUPSALV only gets involved when "it's in the best interest of the U.S. government or if there is no commercial outfit available to do the operation," Salmon says. Otherwise, "we are not allowed to do this. We'd be competing with industry. We'd be taking government-owned equipment and we would put the commercial guys out of business. That is not our intent."

The raising of the USS Monitor off the coast of Virginia was funded by the Navy to create a training opportunity for its divers, who rarely get a chance to conduct live operations in deep waters "Deep Waters" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United States in the March 25 1910 issue of Collier's Weekly, and in the United Kingdom in the June 1910 issue of the Strand. , Salmon notes.

Earlier this year, SUPSALV recovered an F-14 from 10,000 feet of water, after a March 2 training accident in the Mediterranean, which killed the pilot. The recovery of that airplane cost $1 million, but it helped the Navy figure out that there was corrosion on the outer nose landing-gear cylinder, which caused the mishap. After the investigation, the Navy grounded the entire Tomcat A popular Java servlet container from the Apache Jakarta project. Tomcat uses the Jasper converter to turn JSPs into servlets for execution. Tomcat is widely used with the JBoss application server. For more information, visit See Jakarta and JBoss.  fleet for several weeks.

This summer, SUPSALV was scheduled to salvage the wreckage of another F-14 off shallow waters in the Atlantic. It appears that the aircraft contained classified material, which the Navy wanted to retrieve as soon as possible. Navy officials also wanted to prevent the airplane from becoming a tourist attraction Noun 1. tourist attraction - a characteristic that attracts tourists
attractive feature, magnet, attractor, attracter, attraction - a characteristic that provides pleasure and attracts; "flowers are an attractor for bees"
 for the local divers.
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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