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Seabotix - Press Release - March 15, 2004

TINY SEABOTIX LBV150 CARRIES A BIG LOAD

IN BROADCASTS FROM

THE BOTTOM OF MONTEREY BAY

MYSTIC, CT – The LBV150, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) developed by San Diego’s SeaBotix, Inc., is being deployed at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to transmit images and allow people thousands of miles to operate it. SeaBotix and the Immersion Institute specifically engineered the LBV150 to tolerate long periods in salt water. This allows Immersion audiences at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration and other museums and aquariums in the U.S. more time to “drive” the vehicle and see the breath-taking images 60 feet underwater in the Monterey Bay sanctuary.

“For two years we beta-tested a larger 250K blue-water working ROV to send live footage from Monterey Bay,” said Stephen M. Coan, executive director of the Immersion Institute. “It worked, but the LBV150’s smaller size and ease of operation allows a lot more people to take part in underwater exploration and discovery, guiding the vehicle and panning its cameras on the amazing creatures that live there,” he said.

The networked, real-time remote control features engineered into the LBV150 allow Immersion visitors in Mystic, CT and its partner institutions to operate it from thousands of miles away using the high bandwidth Internet2, developed by consortium of 207 universities to spur the use of research and technology over the web. “Internet2 is tailor-made for bringing exploration live to people and allowing them to operate equipment from a distance,” said Greg Wood, director of communications for the consortium.

Working with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which funds the project and manages the National Marine Sanctuaries, engineers wrote special software to enable the remote operation of the LBV150, which is tethered to a 100-foot cable suspended above the sea bed at Monterey Bay. Visitors are able to guide it across the suspended tether, using its thrusters (propeller-driven electric motors) and camera to explore the Sanctuary and its marine inhabitants.

Trained pilots from NOAA, Immersion and SeaBotix have more leeway with the vehicle. They can detach it from its cable and free-fly it around the Marine Sanctuary’s seafloor, allowing it to follow and film a diver or explore off-the-beaten-path corners of the surrounding area.

In the next few months, the 24-hour-a-day remote camera and ROV system will be expanded to two other National Marine Sanctuaries in California’s Channel Islands and in the Florida Keys. “Very soon, people will be able to compare the marine life at all three locations and see how different they are from each other,” said Immersion program manager Tom Dudchi. “Since less than 10% of our seafloors have been explored, this is going to provide some amazing information to a lot of people about our oceans. And the more they know about these waters and the creatures that live in them, the more concerned they will be about protecting and caring for them,” he said.

Oceanographer and explorer Dr. Robert Ballard, president of the Institute for Exploration, established the Immersion Institute at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. In addition to the National Marine Sanctuary programs, Immersion also carries out Immersion Live!, an annual two-week program bringing live underwater research and exploration to participating museums, zoos and aquariums, and Immersion After-school, a program developed with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that uses educational and fun computer-based programs to increase knowledge about science and math.

Besides NOAA, Immersion has received support from the Department of Education, the Institute for Marine and Library Science, Connecticut Education Network and the University of Connecticut. The Immersion Institute and Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration are divisions of the Sea Research Foundation, Inc. a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Mystic, Connecticut.

SeaBotix Inc. manufactures the small LBV150 in San Diego, California. Donald Rodocker, the company’s founder, is a long-time underwater explorer and equipment manufacturer. Rodocker created a gas reclaim system used on the first saturation dive to the sunken Andrea Doria in 1973 and, in 1981, to recover gold bullion from the HMS Edinburgh. “I am delighted to be working with NOAA and Immersion on this incredible project to showcase our National Marine Sanctuaries, which are as varied and as beautiful as our National Parks,” Rodocker said.

SeaBotix created the LBV with several key features enabling its operator to be able to intuitively control the vehicle while focusing on the project. Research found that the LBV must have the smallest diameter tether (which is the highest contributor to ROV drag), powerful thrusters and yet enough mass to remain stable. Adding to the balance between thrust, mass and tether are features such as auto depth and heading, lateral control, 270 degree field of vision and video information overlay.



 


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