Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles

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8-Pound Underwater Robot Proves Itself as Tool for Underwater Crime Scene Investigation

VideoRay LLC announced today that the Florida State University – Panama City Underwater Crime Scene Investigation (UCSI) Program used a VideoRay ROV (remotely operated vehicle) as part of the first water-based simulation to test Florida’s terrorism response systems on February 4, 2003, in Niceville, FL. The VideoRay is part of “a new paradigm for scientific underwater investigations,” says Tom Kelley, who heads up the UCSI Program.

Joerg Hess, expert in remote sensing and underwater robotics for UCSI, exposed local, state, and federal officials to the VideoRay as a first response tool to aid in UNDERWATER terrorists attacks and crime scene investigations. The VideoRay was one of several video-equipped robots that accompanied divers, criminologists, scientists, and engineers in Niceville who tested protocols and technology being developed for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The new UCSI program also trains and educates local authorities on different methods used to look for evidence and search underwater areas and targets. “We are in the business of educating people and sharing with them the best technology that is affordable,” said Kelley. “We needed a small system that is portable and cost effective – a tool that can fit within a sheriff department’s budget.”

The VideoRay ROV is used by the UCSI team as an alternate to divers to get a first look at an underwater crime scene. The VideoRay is an 8-pound submersible equipped with a video camera operated by one person from land or boat. The submersible is attached to a 500-foot long tether and control box, which allows Hess to navigate through the water and see through the sub’s video eye.

To locate possible targets for investigation, Hess also uses a scanning sonar mounted on the VideoRay. The sonar can pick up the presence of a gun underwater, for example. The VideoRay is then launched to capture video footage of the area and even retrieve the gun with its manipulator claw. When divers are sent in, the VideoRay acts as a third eye, giving staff on the shore a close look at underwater operations. Using the VideoRay also frees divers from carrying videography equipment.

During the exercise in Niceville, “we showed that the video we get from the VideoRay is of as good or better quality than what we were able to get with more expensive ROVs,” says Hess. “Everyone was flabbergasted. The VideoRay may look like a toy but it proved itself as a serious piece of equipment.” The live video captured by the VideoRay was transmitted to Washington DC.

Background about the UCSI Program at FSU Panama City
Through the School of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Florida State University Panama City has created a unique forensics program – Underwater Crime Scene Investigation (UCSI). The UCSI program teaches criminology students and law enforcement professionals the techniques and protocols used to conduct prolonged crime scene examination, whether on the surface or underwater, requiring the location, recognition, documentation, recovery, preservation and interpretation of evidence. For more information about the UCSI program at FSU Panama City, call toll-free (866) 539-7588.