Posted by: Patricia | August 3, 2010

Cal Fish and Game ROV project is DIW

All good things must come to an end, they say. Maybe I am biased but I feel as though it’s a great shame that the California Department of Fish and Game has decided to eliminate contracts and in turn the ROV program is now dead in the water.

We were on the verge of having some exciting new touch screen computer controls of the ROV. New microcontroller boards that helped the data come up smoothly, and enhanced control of the ROV from the surface. In the world of ROVs, I believe that the Fish and Game program was on the cutting edge and had an A-team of scientists and technicians.

Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Posted by: Patricia | May 25, 2010

Video from the ROV: Central Coast MPA 2009

Posted by: Patricia | May 24, 2010

Video from the ROV: Channel Islands 2009

Posted by: Patricia | May 14, 2010

What is an ROV?

ROV stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle and refers to a type of tethered underwater robot.  The robot consists mainly of a camera system, lights, and thrusters to control it’s movement in the water.  They are designed to dive deeper than a SCUBA diver, some all the way to the deepest parts of the ocean, and they can do this while the crew are all safe on board the ship, unlike a submersible.  Most ROVs are used in the oil and gas industry, but many have been converted to scientific use and are now being developed solely for that purpose.

Here’s some information from Wikipedia:

Divers and submersibles have both been used for fish surveys, but there are limitations to both.  Because the ROV can diver deeper than a human can and doesn’t have to surface to change out air tanks, deep water surveys can be done more efficiently and cheaper with an ROV than a diver.  The record of the dive is also permenantly recorded.  Unlike a submersible, the ROV is a much safer way to do long dives to great depths.  Only equipment is at risk and not lives.

Despite all these advantages, the technology is still misunderstood and underutilized.  We hope to be able to spread the use of this useful tool for scientific study.

Posted by: Yuko | April 13, 2010

Our Data

We started to survey in the Channel Islands in 2003.  Since then we have flown the ROV over 600 km in the area.  The data we collect is ROV XY position data, sensor data such as depth and heading, and video of ocean floor.   All the data including the ROV video is associated to same time data, so all the data can relate to each other.

During the cruise, we record the position and sensor data every second.  The ROV takes approximate 15 min to fly a transect line, so we collect around 1000 data points each transect line.  In 2009, we surveyed more than 100 transect lines in Channel Islands, so we collected over 100,000 data points and more than 25 hours of video from the cruise.

The advantage of our data is the video.  We have processed the data for some rockfish species that DFG focuses on; however, if someone needs data for other fish or invertebrate, we can always go back and process the video for that species.  Associated habitat and special data are already processed, so we can analyze the data very easily.

ROV video snapshot

In order to use our data repeatably, the data processing method should be consistent.  The automated data processing is the one way to do it, but we can’t automate the video processing.  People have to watch video and enter data by hand.  To process the video consistently, we develop the method to be as simple as possible to reduce errors.  Since we try to make the level of data accuracy the same, we spend long time training the video processors.

From these effort, I can say that we have very high quality data set to explore the ocean environment available.

Posted by: Patricia | April 13, 2010

Current Status of Bob

In the last couple of seasons, the ROV has gone through some major upgrades including a high resolution camera, onboard digital recording,  and microcontrollers that automate data collection.  But even adding the latest technologies couldn’t save Bob’s body from aging.  Several solder joints and underwater cabling had begun to fail, as well as the ten year old hollow stainless steel crashframe.  Also the amount of power that the old ROV was able to supply for all the new toys wasn’t quite cutting it.  It was time for a serious overhaul of those 1990s parts!

Bob coming apart

So when Bob came back from the Central Coast in 2009, we immediately deconstructed the whole ROV including the topside systems.  Endcaps came off, thrusters were disassembled and even the internal wiring was pulled.  Years of exposure to sea air had taken their toll on some of these part.  Lastly, the hull of the ROV was taken out of the leaking crash frame ready to be mounted in a new body.

New wiring was put in for Bob’s now completely customized systems, from the data logger to a camera selection circuit and digital and analog controls.  Bob’s new circuitry is configurable to a variety of sensors and cameras.  This year we also developed a still/high definition camera based on a sony camcorder and an external flash unit.  This allows us to take 12.0MP photographs as well as record full 1080i high definition images.  A whole array of dimmable LED lights were also mounted to Bob’s new crash frame.

The new crashframe is a custom designed plastic frame that has near neutral buoyancy and a front crash guard to protect the lights and cameras.  Most newer ROVs have already gone to the plastic design which eliminates the possibility of flooding.  Plus, with the black-on-red coloring and angles, it gives Bob a new sleek look.

In the topside systems the console was boosted up to 300V, allowing much more power to come down to the ROVs subsea electronics.  The Junction Box has added controls for dimming the lights, selecting cameras and controlling the high resolution main camera.  All of these controls as well as turning the lasers on, starting recording on the subsea DVR, taking snapshots and controlling the still camera, can be controlled via  a PC.  The computer will have a touch screen for ease of use while piloting or navigating the ROV.

We’re overhauled the systems of BOB but maintained the simplicity for operation and troubleshooting while adding the latest imaging and lighting technologies and bringing the sensors and recording into the digital age.

Posted by: Patricia | April 12, 2010

About Me – ROV Engineer

I’m Patricia Cheng Terry and I’m the “ROV Technical Specialist.”  At sea, I’m there to keep things running smoothly on the vehicle, act as Deck Boss, deploying and recovering the ROV, and am also cross trained as Data Manager, Navigator and have done some piloting as well.  During the rest of the year, I work out the bugs in the ROV systems, plan and implement upgrades and help with post processing of data.  Usually you’ll find me in front of several screens of electronic schematics and lines of computer code, or sitting at the soldering station surrounded by half assembled circuit board.  Sometimes I’m like a mechanic, under the ROV with thruster oil dripping on me.

Working at Sea

I like to be hands on and I love field work, but most of all I enjoy being creative and making the ROV run better and integrating the latest technology.  Bob is great because of the simplicity of his systems and I try and maintain that while making sure we’re on the cutting edge of sensors and cameras.  Video is our main data and so we want the crispest underwater images available.  I’ve also developed several microcontrollers that help the ROV manage data from a variety of sensor types, as well as upgraded some old technology such as the on screen video overlay.  We’re also currently working on computer controls that allow the pilot to use a touch screen to operate many of the ROV systems and monitor them in real time.

I’ve always been a tech-y nerd ever since my days as an engineering and physics student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  After working on a towed camera system with NOAA in the Great Lakes, I became interesting in Oceanography and obtained a Masters degree from Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  Afterwards I worked for almost four years in Engineering for the Geophysics department before joining the Fish and Game ROV Team.

I’ve enjoyed working with Bob and I want others to discover what  cool and useful tool the ROV is.

Posted by: Yuko | April 12, 2010

ROV BOB on ABC news

Click here to see the video

BOB was in the ABC local channel in Monterey area in 2008.

Posted by: Yuko | April 12, 2010

About Me – GIS/Data Specialist

Hi, I’m the GIS/Data Specialist and ROV Navigator  for the team.  At-sea, I navigate ROV and manage all the data recording.  In the office, I process and analyze all the data such as ROV tracking positioning data, and habitat and fish video data, also I create all the maps we use for the cruise and rep0rt figures.

ROV control van: Pilot and navigator stay in this box for approximate 6 to 8 hours a day, staring at monitors all day long...

I joined the team in 2002 as an intern while I was an international student at Monterey Peninsula College.   I had over 8 years experience as a field technician at a Marine environmental consulting company in Japan before I came to the US.   After I completed an Associate Degree in Marine Science and Technology, I decided to stay in the US for the higher degree, and thenI transfered to Humboldt States University.  Luckily,  the ROV team office is located in Humboldt county too, so I could continue working for them.   After I graduated from HSU with a Bachelor’s Degree in Oceanography, I became the  GIS/Data Specialist for the team.

While working in Marine science for over 17 years , I have always enjoy working on board the vessels.  I do get sea sickness, but it doesn’t prevent me from this delight in my life.  My other pleasure is the technologies.  I love working with computers, both hardware and software.   I’m not a professional IT guy, but enough of one for making our data recording system work right and for troubleshooting it.

We record over 100,000 positioning and sensor data and over 6 to 8 hours a day of video from each cruise.   In order to process the large quantity of data, it needs to be automated.  I have created VBA (Visual Basic for Application) Software for our database, and now most of the data processing is automated.   I’m still developing VBA software for data analysis, so that our biologists can find interesting results from the data.

Visualizing data is getting more important than ever.  GIS is the tool to visualize our spacial data.   I create hazard maps that show steep pinnacles  since ROV has to fly only 1 to 2 meters hight from the rocky ocean floor.  We are also planning to create 3D animated ROV tracking map to show our data, and showing our data on Google ocean (Google Earth).

At-sea, I navigate the ROV for flying BOB as straight as possible, also record XY position data, ROV sensor data and ROV video.   We use Hypack and Trackpoint III for ROV tracking.   This software can be so challenging, I have to prepare for it before every cruise.   With the ROV system upgrade, I’m expecting more challenging experiences this year!

ROV team with ROV BOB

Posted by: Patricia | April 10, 2010

Phantom ROV Forum

In response to the Deep Ocean Engineering bankruptcy announcement, we’ve started a Forum on google groups.  Phantom users can help out other Phantom users.

Join at