By Jon Mefford - Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration
Levi Unema - Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration
September 26, 2017
Seirios (a.k.a. Sirius) is a name known to many belonging to the brightest star in the night sky. It also happens to be the name of one of the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, enabling ocean exploration efforts around the world. Much like its namesake, Seirios acts as a brilliant source of light in the “night sky” of the ocean, providing illumination and a wide-angle view from above for its counterpart ROV, the Deep Discoverer (D2).
Referred to in the industry as a ‘camera sled,’ Seirios is directly tethered to the Okeanos Explorer by a five mile-long steel cable. This cable is also responsible for providing power to the ROVs as well as a pathway for data transfer between the vehicles and the ship. D2 is further connected to Seirios via a 30 meter-long “neutral tether” which provides D2 with a “spherical” workspace around Seirios. This configuration also allows Seirios to absorb the heave from the ship while keeping D2 stable as it explores the ocean floor. It is this tandem robot configuration that allows stunning imagery to be captured for an undisturbed look at the seafloor.
Seirios is currently supported by one high-definition camera, one Titan 360° pan/tilt/zoom camera, one wide fisheye ‘bubble’ camera, several standard-definition cameras, and a scanning 360-degree sonar that provide pilots with situational awareness while exploring dark marine environments. Three rear-mounted LED light banks are aimed forward and below the vehicle, which ensures that D2 is illuminated sufficiently during exploration. Forward and aft mounted lateral thrusters provide the robot with rotational and lateral control and aid the copilot in keeping D2 in the active field of view during operation. Additionally, Seirios is outfitted with a complement of sensors similar to those found on D2 that measure conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, depth, and other information from the ocean and help to better characterize each of the areas that are explored.
While Seirios usually isn’t the star of the show, it certainly plays an invaluable role in allowing the dynamic duo of robots to explore the ocean together. Without Seirios acting as “star in the sky” and helping to keep an eye on D2 at all times, exploring the depths of the ocean would be made immeasurably more difficult!