Sticking to sound principles

There’s now a smart way to produce a controlled amount of suction, without huge energy implications

A small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) can create a vortex to attach itself to the side - or even underside - of a ship and drive around to inspect it.

Developed for the US Navy, this hovercraft in reverse with wheels is proving to be of interest to navies around the world. But it also has potential in many other spheres, including the inspection and maintenance of civilian vessels, and the insides of storage tanks and reservoirs.

“The US Navy wanted to inspect a ship’s hull in black water, but a conventional ROV is like a helicopter and thus difficult to manoeuvre into position and keep it there”, says Jesse Rodocker, president of Seabotix, San Diego, explaining how the project came about. To get past this ‘sticking’ point, Seabotix partnered with Vortex Holding Company, which had a patented device known as a suction cup vortex attractor. The solution flowed from there.

A longer version of this article appears in the June issue of Eureka.

Tom Shelley

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