Published on March 7, 2014
January • February 2014 UNDERWATER JANUARY • FEBRUARY 2014 ROV SPOTLIGHT The Official Publication of the Association of Diving Contractors International ROV SPOTLIGHT Trapped Under the Sea Mystery of the Red Lake Navy Diving News
history Flying Metal Fra BY FERNANDO HERNANDEZ, REACHING ULTRA Ty Wraps and Duct Tape: An ROV’s Backbone Prior to Work Class ROVs (WROVs) becoming a staple of deepwater operations, as highly advanced vehicles, there was a time when ROVs were held together by duct tape and tywraps (1)—an era known as the Dark Ages—composed of the late 70s and 80s. Work Class ROV (WROV) And in this era, the RCV 225 vehicle, or flying eyeball, was an active participant. If today’s generation were to see this vehicle on a Rig, it could easily be confused for the small and portable circular shaped, offshore satellites. The term/phrase flying eyeball, when used offshore—between different generations—can be equally confusing when describing a WROV, as this occurred in 2007— when we, the subsea intervention team, proposed the use of an ROV skid during operations. This resulted in a technical uproar, due to the vehicle being “tooled up”, and having limited spacing. This gave rise to the ROV crew strictly referring to it as a flying eyeball to ensure we understood said constraint. In the end, a skit was attached to complete the project. After the project’s completion, I began to implore as to why a WROV would be called a flying eyeball, when it is more akin to a flying metal frame. The more I implored, the more perplexed I became, due to the inconsistent explanations. In the pursuit of clarity, and to better The Great Crew Change The last 30 years have not been kind to the ROV market; this is especially true for the 1980s, as highlighted by Clive Furgeson’s paper published in 1990 (2): “Mid-1985 caused some reduction in exploration and drilling activity which initially was a major area of operation for ROVs… However the oil shock of 1986 shook out a lot of companies through the oil industry including many smaller ROV operators and manufacturers.” To absorb the boom and bust effects of the 80s, oil field companies, instituted layoffs and hiring freezes. The market would eventually OROV 72 UnderWater JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014
mes Topside conditions at Ixtoc (Source: NOAA) recover, but when it did rehiring new t l t did not f ll Th result: did, hi i talent t follow. The lt a generational gap in the workforce, with fewer keepers and passers of knowledge to transmit the evolution of technology—engineering practices—and technical know-how to today’s workforce. This also applies to the understanding of language and terminology, the connecting thread of the above listed, as exemplified by the term flying eyeball. And to better understand this phrase, the Ixtoc blowout will be revisited, as this incident, gave it depth, and also introduced/ exposed it to a larger audience during the dark ages. Ixtoc The Ixtoc well, located in Campeche Bay, Mexico, was an exploratory well that succumbed to a blowout in 1979, during drilling operations, which caused the Rig to be set ablaze. Because the remnants of the downed platform, and collapsed drill pipe came to rest above the well, divers were unable to locate the subsea Blow Out Preventer (BOP), as a result the BOP could not be engaged to control the well. For this reason, submerged vehicles would bear the burden of locating the BOP. But first they would need to be deployed: this was no easy task, as topside conditions reached temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Notwithstanding, an international team pressed forward, which included the famed blow out wrangler, Red Adair. Adair’s scope of work: kill the well. But to do this, he would rely on video feeds and robots, as highlighted by Popular Science (3): Offshore: Coining of a Term At Ixtoc, a total of 3 subsea vehicles, were used. Of these three, the RCV 225 is used interchangeably with the term of interest. Which raises an additional question: why would Adair choose to call this a flying eyeball? The RCV 225’s circular shape, and like the human eye it too is vital for viewing objects external to itself, but to do this it uses thrusters. From a coining standpoint, Adair is credited with coining the phrase flying eyeball, in an offshore context, via Joseph F. Engelberger’s book Robotics in Service (4). B t th But the reality is th t th t neither th I t blowout nor Ad i can b lit i that that ith the Ixtoc bl t Adair be credited with creating the concept of a flying eyeball: this distinction is held by Rick Griffin. Griffin created the first known illustration, when working for the Berkeley Bonaparte Agency, depicting a flying eyeball, more than 10 years before Ixtoc, by way of psychedelic posters announcing a Jimi Hendrix concert. Furthermore, this illustration continues to garner attention, due to its artistic and cultural impact, and praise, as illustrated by the Heritage Auction Company’s auction catalogue from 2010 (5): “Underground artist Rick Griffin’s most famous creation— the flying eyeball star of his legendary psychedelic poster—makes another appearance in this outstanding pencil sketch from 1967.” Present Day The phrase in question in today’s market is not used to announce concerts; instead it is used interchangeably to describe Observation Class ROVs (OROV). Comparatively, OROVs have versatility that WROV’s do not: access to highly limited and constrained areas. Their use in such settings will continue to increase, as they become more compact, and because of such features, they are occasionally used in deepwater settings, but in a limited fashion. But in regards to the future deepwater operations, WROVs will continue to exert their dominance. Works Cited 1. Held Together by Duct Tape and Tywraps. Newport, Curt. 2, Gainesville: Naylor LLC, 2013, Vol. 26. 2. Subsea Remotely Operated Vehicles to Subsea Robots. Furgeson, Clive. Melbourne: Third National Conference on Robotics, 1990. 3. Robot Subs Troubleshoot the Deep. Popular Science. 6, Winter Park: Bonnier Corporation, 1981, Vol. 219. 4. Engelberger, Joseph F. Robotics in Service. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989. 0262050420. 5. Heritage Auctions Inc. Heritage Signature Auction #7027. Dallas: s.n., 2010. www.adc-int.org ■ www.underwatermagazine.com UnderWater 73
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