March 10, 2011 San Francisco and Submersibles
This post is about a month late – so just make believe that it’s March. and I’m at the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) convention in San Francisco. A big part of why I’m here is to meet Ross Powell, the principal investigator of Wissard and to see the S.I.R., the Sub Ice Rover at its development site in Alameda, California. I also get a chance to meet with a large number of other Polar researchers and “Polar Junkies” and hear about other research projects and the outreach being done.
The rover is being designed and built by a company called DOER. If you ever wanted the perfect job where you always have a new challenge, I’m pretty sure this is it. This company only does one thing – it builds and repairs remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s).
These are the workhorses of underwater exploration and maintenance operations. They are work platforms designed to operate at depths of several thousand meters in the oceans. They are piloted by an operator on the surface who does everything by remote control while viewing what’s happening via video cameras mounted on the ROV. It’s the ultimate video game!
Wissard has gone one better than the average ROV. Most ROV’s are a square frame with flotation to give it neutral buoyancy, thrusters (propellers) for maneuverability, lights and cameras to see underwater, and one or two robotic arms that do all the work. The Sub-Ice Rover has gone way beyond the basic box design. It has to fit through a 1 meter diameter hole drilled through 800 meters of ice.
Once through the ice it needs to be a support platform for a variety of scientific instrumentation and be able to take samples and return them to the surface. To do this, DOER designed a truly unique rover that folds itself into a long cylinder which is less than 1 meter in diameter. The entire package weights about 2000 pounds. For a short video from a local TV station, follow this link