M-ROVER will enhance undergrads’ experience

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The latest addition to the U-M’s undergraduate education program weighs 500 pounds, costs more than $236,000, and loves the water. An underwater exploration and recovery remote-operated vehicle (ROV), it’s called M-ROVER.

“M-ROVER is a unique, state-of-the-art piece of equipment that will enhance the undergraduate educational experience for U-M students in a wide variety of disciplines,” says Guy A. Meadows, associate professor of physical oceanography and acting director of the U-M’s cooperative institute with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

During the summer months, undergraduate students on board the U-M’s research vessel, Laurentian, will use

M-ROVER for underwater sampling and exploration in the Great Lakes. During the winter months, the vehicle—53 inches long, 33 inches wide and 28 inches high—will be housed in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering’s Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory for use by students studying the dynamics of submerged vehicles.

“M-ROVER provides an educational link to all U-M faculty and students interested in the Great Lakes and marine environments,” Meadows said. “No other university in the Great Lakes area has anything like it.”

Purchased with an $88,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and additional University funding, M-ROVER was manufactured by the Benthos Undersea Systems Technology Division in North Falmouth, Mass. The thruster system used on the Benthos vehicle was designed by William S. Vorus, professor of naval architecture and marine engineering and director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program.

“Benthos offered a sizable discount on M-ROVER in recognition of Prof. Vorus’ services and to promote continued cooperative development of the vehicle at the U-M,” Meadows says.

Although undergraduate education will be M-ROVER’s highest priority, Meadows said the vehicle can also be used by the Michigan State Police and local sheriffs for underwater recovery missions that would be too dangerous for divers.

In addition, Meadows plans to make M-ROVER’s underwater cameras, sampling equipment and sonar systems available to scientists at the U-M, other Great Lakes universities and government agencies. “We hope to accommodate as many requests from researchers as possible, and have already received several proposals,” Meadows says.

Originally designed for use in the offshore oil industry, M-ROVER can carry a 90-pound payload and operate in depths up to 1,500 feet. Powered by electricity, its six l/2-horsepower vertical and horizontal thrusters can produce speeds up to 4 mph on the surface.

The vehicle is equipped with an articulated arm for underwater sampling and salvage operations, a complete autopilot with automatic heading and altitude options, a scanning imaging sonar system, a high-resolution low-light video system, and an optically corrected 35 mm still camera system.


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