World map showing the location of the ROVs explored with My Submarine

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)

How do we explore the ocean without actually being in it? We have underwater robots do it for us! They are called ROVs, which stands for Remotely Operated Vehicles. This means that we can control them from a ship, in a similar way that you would play a video game. We can steer them, have them take videos or photos of the ocean, and even have them capture a sample of an ocean organism with their robotic arms. If you like to play video games, you might want to think about a career as a ROV operator.

An ROV operator controls the ROV from a system on board the ship. Using a joystick, a camera control, and a video monitor, the operator can move the ROV around to explore its surroundings and can “see” what the ROV is “seeing.”

ROVs range in size from that of a small computer to a small truck. The larger ones are very heavy and need other equipment to put them over the side of a ship. They have a cable that connects them to the ship at all times. Exploring the ocean with ROVs is safer and easier than using a submersible because no one gets wet!

What other reasons are there to use a ROV? It can be helpful for safety reasons. For instance, if a submersible becomes caught on fishing gear during a dive an ROV can “see” the situation and help scientists decide the best way to free the submersible, or cut it loose if needed. It is also easier to use a ROV if the weather is too rough for a submersible to work in.