Publication of our article on enhancing industrial Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) for scientific purposes

OSC is pleased to announce publication of the article Enhancing the scientific value of industry Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in our oceans (McLean et al., 2020) in a special issue titled ‘Seafloor heterogeneity: artificial structures and marine ecosystem dynamics’ in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science. This article was co-authored by OSC’s Managing Director, Dr Victoria Todd, and is our third peer-reviewed paper, after Todd et al. (2018) and Todd et al. (2019), using industry-collected ROV data to perform scientific research.

ROVs are used extensively by offshore Oil & Gas (O&G) and renewables industries for inspection, maintenance, and repair of infrastructure. With thousands of subsea structures monitored across the world’s oceans from the shallows to depths >1000 m, there is a vast and underutilised opportunity for their scientific use. There are, however, a number of disadvantages associated with the use of industry-collected ROV footage as opposed to scientifically-collected imagery, and researchers are attempting to address such shortcomings to enhance future studies.

McLean et al. (2020) argue that, through minor modifications of ROV operations, and fitting industry Work-Class ROVs (WCROVs) with a range of relatively inexpensive scientific equipment, industry has potential to (i) fuel scientific discoveries, (ii) contribute to an understanding of impacts that artificial structures exert on the marine environment, and (iii) collect biotic and abiotic data to support scientific investigation of changing marine ecosystems. The authors identify and describe operationally-feasible methods to alter the way in which industrial ROVs are operated to enhance scientific value of collected data without significantly impacting scheduling or adding to deployment costs. Suggestions include, inter alia, rapid marine life survey protocols, imaging improvements (higher specification cameras, or alternative arrangement of cameras), addition of scientific sensors (e.g. acoustic recorders), and collection of biological samples. By partnering with qualified and experienced research scientists, industry can improve the quality of ROV-derived data, allowing for data to be analysed robustly. Such changes also have potential to enhance environmental stewardship of offshore industries by improving their environmental management and facilitating more informed engagement with a range of external stakeholders, including regulators and the public.

First author, Dr Dianne McLean, is Fish Ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), and is also affiliated with the University of Western Australia (UWA) Oceans Institute. “This is a real win-win,” said Dr McLean. “With some low-cost engineering and operational tweaks, industry and science can use ROVs to fuel new scientific discoveries. For instance, we could better understand the influence of structures such as platforms and pipelines in marine ecosystems – to the mutual benefit of the resource company and the environment”. OSC has also collaborated with Dr. McLean on another recently-published manuscript titled Underwater visual records of marine megafauna around offshore anthropogenic structures, which has been published in the same special issue of Frontiers in Marine Science (Todd et al., 2020). 


McLean, D., Gates, A., Benfield, M., Bond, T., Booth, D., Bunce, M., Fowler, A., Harvey, E., Macreadie, P., Rouse, S., Parsons, M., Partridge, J., Pattiaratchi, C., Thomson , P., Todd, V.L.G., and Jones, D. (2020): Enhancing the global scientific value of industry remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in our oceans. Frontiers in Marine Science 7, 220.

Todd, V.L.G., Lavallin, E.W., and Macreadie, P.I. (2018): Quantitative analysis of fish and invertebrate assemblage dynamics in association with a North Sea oil and gas installation complex. Marine Environmental Research 142, 69-79.

Todd, V.L.G., Williamson, L.D., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., and Macreadie, P.I. (2019): Characterising the first wave of fish and invertebrate colonisation on a new offshore petroleum platform. ICES Journal of Marine Science fsz077.

Todd, V.L.G., Lazar, L., Williamson, L.D., Peters, I., Hoover, A.L., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., Macreadie, P.I., and McLean, D.L. (2020): Underwater visual records of marine megafauna around offshore anthropogenic structures. Frontiers in Marine Science In press.

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