Finalist 2021

ROVing Intelligence T7

Matt Millar / Matt Curtain

Proudly Victorian, the ROVing Intelligence T7 is Australia’s first Industrial Submersible exclusively designed for the underwater Survey Market

The ROVing Intelligence T7 is an Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle designed to inspect submerged assets and infrastructure, and also a versatile tool for any kind of subaquatic exploration or recovery.

With an arsenal of available payloads, the T7 can provide still imagery, video and an array of 3D renderings with incredibly accurate data including measurement, GPS positioning, depth, current speed and temperature.

Designed and engineered in Melbourne using a combination of modern and traditional techniques with superior material selection, the ROVing Intelligence T7 is the most comprehensive inspection class submersible ROV developed in Australia, for Australia and beyond.

Design Brief

The T7 is an answer for the lack of Inspection or high class ROV solutions available or manufactured in Australia. We set out to achieve a product which is highly robust, cost effective, user friendly and sustainable.

One of the biggest issues in the ROV market is dominated by USA based products, which means very high cost and long delivery times. Our solution is to provide a highly serviceable and available product for the Australian and neighbouring nations market.

With sustainability being a strong focus, the T7’s design allows for highly efficient maintenance and repairs, with convenient quick change payload arrangements. Each component is designed for a long life and recyclability with the aim to keep our environmental impact low.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

To begin, heavy research of existing ROV products was conducted to find a suitable solution for the Australian market. This information proved that international inspection class ROV’s are highly expensive with long turn around times from purchase to final delivery.

With this in mind, we set out to design our ROV with cost effective manufacturing techniques, while also incorporating the use of rapid prototyping and durable, recyclable materials. Robustness was another aspect of the design heavily concentrated on, as our research and experience show these vehicles are subject to tough conditions and environments.

There are many obstacles that can easily stop an average ROV in its tracks, potential damage sustained could result in expensive repairs or deem it completely unrecoverable.

We canvased 7 industry experts across 4 key industry pillars (Major Ports, Councils, Aquaculture and Oil & Gas) to ensure the specification of our design meet or surpassed user / industry requirements.

Fluid dynamics was another consideration in this design process. With durability being another main focus, we set out to have flowing rounded fairings on the front and rear to minimise the drag when propelling through the water.

The multipurpose fairings also add design flair aesthetically to our ROV giving it character and an instant recognisable face. These fairing are also an important structural component to house and protect four horizontal thrusters and prevent the front camera lens from making contact with any obstacles.

Other design considerations are the standard and addition payload placements, each one is integrated so they can easily be removed and replaced on site, while also being located for optimum performance and functionality.

Design Excellence

At ROVing Intelligence, we want to build a ROV platform that is future proof. One key design consideration was to create an ROV chassis that can perform a multitude of difference mission types.

To achieve this, we have designed a chassis that aside from its key structural elements and power source is modular and very flexible in its configuration. It can be configured with all of the traditional inspection class ROV payloads and easily reconfigured to cater for new payload technologies as they are developed.

The ROV itself is built around a central 400-meter depth rated water proof electronics enclosure custom manufactured from carbon fibre. This central element is surrounded by 4 key multipurpose structural elements.

The first of which are the two carbon fibre torque tubes at the top of the ROV that give the ROV structure its main strength but also perform the role of light housings, buoyancy and ROV carry handles.

The second key elements are the 2 perforated folded metal structures at the base of the ROV that tie the structure together at the base of the ROV and accommodate the 2 battery tubes, form additional payload hard points for the mounting of sensors such as side-scan sonar and also support the ROV ballast weights.

Even though function has driven the overall mechanical form it also had to be aesthetically pleasing and have a wow factor that left an immediate impact on the viewer! We achieved this through balance of proportion, streamlined form and strategic material and colour selection.

Gloss black anodised aluminium in combination with bright yellow fairings achieves a contrast of robustness and safety. By implementing carbon fibre for each structural tube, the T7 ROV promotes quality and high performance while finding perfect harmony with aesthetics resulting in a very capable machine.

Design Innovation

We set out to produce a platform that supports all of the commercial ROV payloads (such as multiple cameras, grippers, lights, water quality sensors, navigation aids, sonar, ultrasonic material thickness tester). It also needed to remain light enough to be safely handled by a single person and not require a specially equipped vessel to deploy or recover the ROV.

To achieve this, we needed to move away from the traditional materials used in conventional inspection and work class ROV platforms such as stainless-steel, thick-walled engineering plastics and bulky welded aluminium structures. Instead, we designed and developed a stressed torque tube style structure made from carbon fibre and light weight 5 axis machined aluminium components with the smallest parts count possible.

We achieved this all while producing an inspection class ROV at half our competitor’s cost.

By using modern manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, we were also able to achieve such a unique fairing design. This technology is paramount to finding the perfect solutions for this ROV application. However, if there were a need for a modified fairing design at the front or rear of the ROV to cater to a client’s needs, this can be achieved with out needing to create new tooling for other manufacturing methods such as injection moulding.

This is a design service we can provide to make our ROV solution better suited to one’s individuals needs and applications.

Design Impact

Currently our target customer base utilises inefficient, incomplete, expensive and in some cases dangerous practises to gather condition data and imagery about submerges infrastructure condition.

Current practices also don’t produce geospatially referenced imagery at regular intervals, meaning condition deterioration trends can be determined. Our solution has resolved all of these issues and is directly interfaced with key corporate systems reducing overheads and errors.

One system that we produce data for is the asset management system and this enables to customer to maximise their spend around the management and maintenance of submerged assets not only saving millions of dollars annually, but assists justification of budgets for senior stakeholders and government agencies.

Our technology also supports the evolving IOT 4.0 and the emerging market around digital twin technology and Augmented Reality.

Although the primary design has been around submerged infrastructure inspections and providing a cost effect, regular and robust outcomes for our customer the platform has been designed with an environmental monitoring and management role in mind as well.

A spin-off company also being launched to track the presence of micro-plastics in our oceans by carrying a proprietary micro-plastic sampling payload on every dive and then having those samples lab tested and logged into a geospatially referenced database and mapping system that can track the presence and volume of micro-plastics within the marine environment. We also perform similar sampling of water quality factors and heavy metals in sea floor sediment.

The project is very proud to be Victorian and we’re active members on a number of local design and technology forums and sit on at least one technology advisory group in the robotics start-up space. In addition, we have engaged several interns from local universalities and are very focused on mentoring and developing local resources in this space.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

To ensure its recyclability but also to minimise the platforms impact on the marine environment in which it operates.

The careful selection of key components such as the thrusters which use water-based lubrication system as opposed to oil filled systems that have the potential to pollute the environment is just one example.

At the end of product life all components are recyclable (Aluminium, carbon fibre, PLA Plastics) and for more difficult components such as batteries we have partnered with responsible and sustainable recycling company to assist with the re-processing of the battery technology.

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