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Underwater Video Aids Commercial Divers and Public Safety Dive Teams

Tags: rovs, sl2, mc1, tov1, dv1, video

Members of the Fall River Police Dept. with their SeaLion-2 ROV
Inset: Underwater Solutions' diver enters tank equipped with JW Fishers MC-1 mini camera mounted on the helmet.

Underwater video systems are now widely used by both public and private sector dive operations. They consist of a video camera mounted in a waterproof housing with a long cable connecting it to a monitor on the surface where the picture is viewed and recorded. There are numerous advantages of having a system that sends live video to the surface. Many law enforcement agencies and public safety dive teams put down a camera instead of a diver in the initial stages of an underwater search to save time and increase safety. It also allows them to make a permanent record of a search operation, an underwater crime scene, or evidence. Commercial diving companies employ these systems so topside support staff can see what the diver is doing, and to make a video of the work being done for the client.

The city of Fall River, Massachusetts is best know for Lizzie Borden, its Portuguese culture, 19th century textile mills, and Battleship Cove with the world's largest collection of World War II naval vessels. It is situated along the shores of Mount Hope Bay which provides quick access to the Atlantic Ocean for recreational and commercial vessels. Also encompassed within the city's borders are two large lakes, several ponds, and the Quequechan River flowing 2.5 miles through downtown. With all of these waterways, Fall River's police department must be well equipped to deal with water-related emergencies and criminal activity, or violations of maritime law. To assist in these efforts the force established a Harbor Patrol Division, manned with specially trained officers and furnished with task-specific equipment. One of items acquired by the team is a JW Fishers SeaLion-2 ROV. This highly maneuverable remote controlled underwater vehicle is equipped with two high resolution color cameras, can descend to depths up to 1,000 feet, and operate in currents up to 4 knots. The ROV is also equipped with a scanning sonar which allows the operator to see a 400 foot diameter area around the vehicle, regardless of water clarity, an essential feature when working in the murky bay. The SeaLion can check ship hulls for drugs or contraband, inspect underwater structures for explosives, search for drowning victims, and locate weapons and other evidence disposed of in the water.

For groups that don't have the budget for an ROV, a towed video system is an economical alternative. Teams like the Rochester Police and Wayne Fire Departments, both in New York, have found JW Fishers TOV-1 towed video to be a safe and effective tool for performing underwater searches. Unaffected by cold, darkness, and depth, the towed video can stay submerged all day and all night without concern of decompression sickness or running out of air. Propelled by the moving boat, the system's low light camera and powerful 100 watt lights provide a clear picture of the underwater environment. Some companies, like DOF Subsea, a global provider of services to the oil and gas industry, find a towed video to be more useful than an ROV for survey operations. Whereas an ROV is typically deployed from a stationary vessel to inspect a site directly below, towing the camera allows a larger area to be surveyed relatively quickly. To assist in their offshore operations DOF acquired a TOV-1 and is using it with Fishers DDW-1 depressor wing to obtain deeper tows with less cable deployed.

In the United Arab Emirates, Envitech Middle East is working with the Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi to develop the first artificial oasis, "Antelope Lakes". The project makes use of solar energy and innovative water treatment technologies to create environmentally friendly oases to protect areas of desert and help preserve flora, fauna, and endangered species. One of the tools being employed is JW Fishers DV-1 drop video, a system that is lowered from the boat to explore the underwater environment without getting wet.

Other companies prefer a compact video system that can mounted on the diver's helmet or is easily carried by hand. Massachusetts based Underwater Solutions specializes in servicing the drinking water industry. They provide inspections and cleaning of water tanks, clear wells and river crossings and staff members are certified specialists in water quality and water storage. When they perform these operations Underwater Solutions divers are equipped with either a JW Fishers DHC-1 diver-held video system or the MC-1 mini camera mounted to the helmet. This allows the inspection and cleaning to be viewed by topside personnel and a recording made for the company and client.

Another group that likes the compact size and ease of deployment of the MC-1 is the Roswell Fire Department in Georgia. They purchased their system with the optional pole mount which allows a paint roller extension handle to be attached to the camera housing. The system can then be lowered from a boat to look at the bottom in shallow rivers and ponds, hung over the side of a pier of seawall to view an underwater site or structure, or just extended into an area that may be potentially hazardous for fire fighters to enter.

A few of the many other agencies and companies are using Fishers video systems including Annor Diving in Aruba, Missouri Highway Patrol, Works of Diving Hong Kong, Marathon Oil Company, Union Pipes Company in UAE, Boston Police Special Operations Unit, National Marine Services in Oman, and International Naval Works in Egypt and SAS Engineering in Saudi Arabia.

JW Fishers Mfg. underwater video systems - (clockwise from top left) MC-1 mini camera in helmet mount, SeaLion-2 ROV, TOV-1 towed video system, and the DV-1 drop video.