The first ROVs to be commonly used in Offshore Oil and Gas were small 'Eyeball' genre machines carrying only a video camera and lights, and were used in support of commercial diving operations. Today's larger 'Work-Class' ROVs with their sophisticted manipulators and tooling packages, have all but replaced the Diver.
Manufacturers have responded from within challenging commercial frameworks to develop more sophisticated; more reliable machines that will go deeper (beyond the realm of the Diver), and do more tasks than ever before. In terms of size, diversity and cost, the ROV business in Offshore Oil and Gas has expanded in all respects: from micro machines fitting into the palm of the hand, to enormous subsea Ploughs and Trenchers requiring heavy lifting equipment and specialised vessels. Subsea installations are now designed around the capabilities of the larger ROVs that will conduct a myriad of diver-less installation and maintenance tasks using sophisticated tools.
Thankfully, there is still an important role for the Diver. Despite appearances of a 'luddite' type resistance to ROVs, and its inert 'Robot' tag, these machines are controlled by skilled personnel with empathy for the Diver. Many Divers confess to feeling more secure when an ROV accompanies them at the subsea worksite, in spite of the larger machines representing a potential hazard. To summarise, the crucial element in all ROV utilisation has been, and will continue to be (for the foreseeable future at least!), ROV People.
ROV development, and the successful operation of crucial subsea tasks in the dynamic - often harsh - subsea environment, is largely due to these dedicated teams of multi-skilled operators: ROV People, and their perseverence; their in-field innovation - so often born from necessity - subsequently revised and re-introduced by enterprise as an 'state-of-the-art' development.
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