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Seabotix Rugged, Capable, Compact ROV's.




This current interview features:

Chris Nicholson
Deep Sea Systems International Founder

 

••My love for electronics and underwater vehicles began early in my high school career. I started out building AUV’s as a hobby and ended up building an AUV that in 1969 won several awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair. From that point on I was hooked.

••Shortly after winning the awards for my AUV, I started to get more involved with ROV’s. I experimented with many different types of ROV’s and worked quite a bit with “towable” vehicles that could be maneuvered as you pulled them. I displayed the RECORP MK-2 ISEF Towable ROV at my high school science fair in 1972. I was really enjoying working with underwater vehicles and knew I wanted to have a career in the maritime industry.

••From there I ended up moving to Harvey, Louisiana and got a job with Michel Lecler Diving building ROV’s for work in the offshore oil industry. At the time the surrounding area of New Orleans was essentially the commercial diving and marine capital, with lots of service work coming out of there. Living and working in Harvey was quite an experience and I really gained a lot of knowledge that was useful later in my career.

••I was always trying to expand my skills and progress further in the industry. It got to the point where I found myself not having time for school. I ended up going over to Europe in 1977 to work with Smit International, and at the age of 21 I was building a $3.5 Million ROV. I thought the trade off was worth it.

••The ROV we built in Europe for Smit, the Smit Sub 1000, was a Work Class ROV that was the first ever underwater ROV to have fiber optics, which was supplied by AT&T. The ROV also had a color camera with various other sensors and was a pretty revolutionary vehicle. After that I decided to go back to the US and get a job building ROV’s for Benthos. It was real similar work, except the vehicles we were building were much smaller.

••During this time I decided I wanted to start my own business that involved working with electronics, while staying involved in the ROV industry. In 1982 I started Deep Sea Systems International out of my basement where I built electric manipulators for smaller ROV’s. My first two customers were Tom Angle and Drew Michel, who is now the MTS ROV committee chair.

••As DSSI grew I again started looking more at building ROV’s. We had a lot of trips to the North Sea, as well as taking on many shipwreck exploration projects. We always found ourselves in need of a smaller, portable, rugged ROV to use on our voyages. This is how we came up with the idea for the Mini Rover MK-1.

••In 1984 we introduced the Mini Rover commercially and started to promote it in various places. We decided to target the trade shows and at the very first one we walked away with 50 orders. Now at this point we were the first portable, low cost ROV to hit the market commercially, so there was a lot of buzz and a lot of attention for DSSI.

••With all the orders coming in we needed a solution for low cost manufacturing. I still had a good relationship with my old boss at Benthos, so I decided to go back to him and let him know what my situation was. Now Benthos had very good quality manufacturing and could do exactly what DSSI wanted. I told them how many vehicles I needed built and at what price, and they told me it would be no problem. So we contracted with Benthos and they started manufacturing the Mini Rovers for us.

••From here we put out another version of the Mini Rover, the MK-2. Then in 1986 we created the line of Sea Rover products. Soon after that it was the Mini Rover MK-4. Eventually we sold the complete Mini Rover and Sea Rover product line to Benthos for them to market and manufacture on their own.

••Then from 1989 to 1995 DSSI stepped away from manufacturing ROV’s and more or less did leasing and other underwater operations. We then went back to the drawing board and in 1995 we released commercially the Max Rover MK-1. The Max Rover was a new generation of smaller, low cost work class ROV’s.

••Currently there are 15 Max Rovers out on the Market being used by various Navies’, oil companies and inspections companies, all over the world. They range from 1000 meter to 3000 meter depth rated vehicles. All vehicles were purchased through DSSI, and currently DSSI owns and operates our own Max Rover called the Global Explorer.

••The Global Explorer is a very unique vehicle that is now essentially a science ROV. The Global Explorer is currently up in the Artic working off the back of an ice breaker with about 35 scientists. It is equipped with a full broadcast High Definition camera and lots of sampling hardware that is integrated right in to the vehicle. The ROV has traps in the front for catching creatures, getting benthic samples and much more. It is also equipped with a suction system for collecting. The Global Explorer is truly a marine science vehicle and is capable of operating in depths up to 3000 meters.

••The entire system is also very portable and can be flown around by common air carrier. The Global Explorer has drawn lots of interest and once it is finished in the Artic it will head out and begin a new project in Indonesia.

••This is what DSSI has been doing for the last couple of years, leasing the Global Explorer and working on all sorts of underwater projects. We have also continued to build thrusters, linear actuators, rotary actuators and other motors.

••We still supported the Max Rover series of ROV’s, but were out of manufacturing. We figured there were too many ROV’s that were too similar and once something changed is was too hard to stay up and compete with all the other companies. But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for us because we started making more money leasing than we did when we manufactured ROV’s.

••Now once again, we are getting back into manufacturing ROV’s with the Sea Max. We delivered our first vehicle in the spring to the military and it has been an extremely reliable vehicle. We have received some great feedback on the vehicle and hope to have them commercially available within the year.

••The Sea Max was developed in association with the University of South Florida. It is a smaller work class ROV that is designed to work in absolute zero visibility environments. It has completed ship hull inspections and various other tasks in zero visibility. The current Sea Max is equipped with around $600,000 dollars worth of sensors. It is a true, rugged, deep water, zero visibility bloodhound. The vehicle can also upload and download data from a satellite, as well as be flown. We will have more information on the Sea Max available on our website in the months to come. www.deepseasystems.com

••So with the new Sea Max ROV and our future line of smaller low cost High Definition ROV’s, Deep Sea Systems looks to penetrate the market once again.

Chris Nicholson
Deep Sea Systems International, Inc.
P.O. Box 622
Falmouth, MA USA 02541-0622
Tel: 508-564-4200
Fax: 508-564-4500
info@deepseasystems.com
www.deepseasystems.com





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