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Hydraulic Insights: ROVs and Why They Are So Popular ben lee

ROVs are also known as remote operated vehicles and are used most often in the offshore oil and gas industries.


ROVs are the type of vehicles that most of us find somewhat exciting as a concept. Imagine – some people are lucky enough to spend their entire day playing with, sorry controlling - a small submarine from aboard a boat or a floating platform or oil rig. The vehicle is equipped with a camera so that they can see where the vehicle is, its surroundings and get clear vision of any tasks that need to be performed. The ROV is connected to the surface by what is known as an umbilical.


The ROV may sound like an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) but the difference is the umbilical. It’s also often described as an underwater robot. Although they may weigh as much as 5 tonnes in the air and be as large as 2 metres x 3 metres x 2 metres in height, they can be controlled by monitoring and controlling equipment including hydraulic powered winches.


ROVs are designed to be neutrally buoyant once they are in the water as they are expected to be able to move underwater and perform as requested by their operator up on the surface.


Although most ROVs in service are being used for oil and gas extraction activities (95% of them) there is another 5% that is tasked with diamond mining and undersea cable maintenance.


As far as operators go, there are most likely around 500 ROV operators working and around 1000 observation class vehicles – otherwise known as OBSROVs. Together they make jobs for between 5,000 and 8,000 workers across the planet plus another 500 or so involved in their manufacture. In addition there are companies such as us who are involved in the peripheries by producing components such as hydraulic power packs that are used for winching these machines in and out of the water.


35% of operational ROVs are located in the North Sea, with more interest for their use developing further afield in countries such as China, Brazil, Australia and the Far East. The depth of the water they work in is as much as 3,000m or 10,000ft.

The ROV is an exciting piece of marine related technology that is capable of performing a wide range of tasks and is making waves in a number of industries.

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