The largest and probably most expensive scientific equipment on board of RV SONNE on the present leg is a remotely operated deep-diving “robot” called ROV KIEL 6000. “ROV” is the abbreviation for “Remotely Operated Vehicle”. The ROV provides “eyes and arms in the deep sea”.
ROV KIEL 6000, which got its name from the city of KIEL, where it is based at GEOMAR, is a remotely operated, electrically driven, 6000m deep diving subsea vehicle. The ROV is connected to the ship via a deep-sea cable, which provides power to the system and enables data exchange. Data exchange means transmission of live imagery of different video cameras and of control commands. On deck, the systems is completed by a winch carrying 6.5 km of deep-sea cable, a power container and a control container. During operations, two pilots sit in the control container to “fly” the ROV, and are accompanied by two scientists who coordinate and document the dive.
How can one picture the work of an ROV (or its pilots)? Imagine travelling up a 4500m high mountain, then getting a remote control with a monitor. Your task would be to ”sample the base station down in the valley: take a can out of a fridge, a bag of cookies out of the shelf , and last but not least pick some flowers in the garden and put them into a vase. This all is to be done with a vehicle as large as two large cupboards, equipped with a manipulator arm at the front.
The underlying technique, which works really well during this cruise, is rather complex – and a detailed description would probably crash the scope of this blog. If you are interested to learn more, have a look here: https://www.geomar.de/en/centre/central-facilities/tlz/rovkiel6000/overview/
Just shortly mentioned: the ROV has to withstand extreme pressures of up to 600 bar at 6000m water depth and its controls are similar to the ones used in aviation.
By Dr. Inken Suck, GEOMAR and Peter Urban, GEOMAR