The benefits of fly-outs
When you're a subsea operator, you use underwater vehicles to explore potentially hazardous objects, such as an offshore oil platform or a wrecked ship. To fully explore every nook and cranny, you may need to employ two vehicles: a larger one to act as the mothership and a smaller, unmanned one to act as a fly-out.
The fly-out provides benefits that the mothership alone cannot. Fly-outs fit into more confined spaces, they allow you to see the object you're exploring from another vantage point, and they're low cost – and thus cheaper to repair or replace than the mothership.
The drawback of fly-outs
However, the fly-out does present one drawback. Most fly-outs are attached by cable to the mothership. These cables can snag and get tangled, which presents a serious problem. They also require the ROV to exit an object via the same opening through which it entered.
The solution: going tetherless
The solution is to go tetherless. But how? Underwater laser communication has been in use for over a decade, but only between submarines and surface-based ships or satellites. It has never been used to run a fly-out – until now. Free space optics (FSO) is making tetherless fly-outs possible.
FSO technology, which has just recently become available to the marine industry, disseminates data using light promulgating in "free space," such as air or water. The transmitting laser acts more like a flashlight rather than a point of light, making FSO perfectly suited to serve the short-range underwater communication needs between fly-outs and their motherships.
The advancement of FSO technology is a huge step forward for the subsea industry, allowing for better exploring capabilities and better access to hazardous objects.
North America Sales Manager, Commercial Underwater Systems
This post is part of Saab USA's U.S. Market Insights blog series, where our marketing and business development employees offer their thoughts on the issues affecting their portfolio.