Issues Archive

January/February 2015 Vol. 19
No. 1
 M3 Wave’s ‘APEX’ is  
  readied for deployment 
 Deep Trekker’s DTG2  
  Worker package 
 M3 Wave sediment grab 
Small companies making big waves  

Deep Trekker and M3 Wave demonstrate how small, local companies can make a big impact in our world

When M3 Wave LLC took on the challenge of devising a new wave-energy device, the company needed an effective way to inspect its innovative equipment regularly. It turned to Deep Trekker Inc., a Canada-based mini-ROV manufacturer, which has a simple but broad-reaching goal – to give access to the underwater world to anyone who wants or needs it.

Deep Trekker prides itself on offering a fully portable, affordable and easy to use ROV to a wide variety of customers in the global market. From the humble beginnings of a simple dream to explore the shipwrecks of Lake Huron, to the release of its first commercial unit working in the Norwegian aquaculture industry in 2011, the homegrown company has been continuously evolving. Today, units explore the waters of 40 countries, for customers both small and large. With a commitment to providing an accessible solution for both recreational and commercial markets with a wide range of solutions, Deep Trekker works closely with its customers to ensure that their needs are fully understood and met. This partnership approach has allowed the company to work with a number of very interesting clients.

Deep Trekker is excited to be a part of the ground-breaking M3 Wave project. The wave-power company, based in Oregon, USA, was tasked with designing a new way to generate energy – using waves. M3 Wave designs technology vastly different to traditional wave power devices, which generally use floating buoys to harness the waves’ energy. The idea sprouted in the 1990s when founders Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes were students at Oregon State University, building their first model from milk bags and spoons. The technology would sit on the bottom of the ocean floor using two bags on either end of their device they call ‘APEX’. The wave motion inflates and deflates the bags, creating electricity by turning the inner turbine as the exchanging air is shot through a six-inch (152-millimetre) diameter pipe. Their innovative design minimises impact on the local fishing and recreation market, with the technology resting on the ocean floor rather than taking up large areas above the surface that the local fisherman and recreational boaters would have to avoid.

M3 Wave is not the first company to attempt to build wave-energy technologies, however many previous companies succumbed to high costs of development. Keeping this in mind, M3 Wave tried to keep its costs as low as possible – only spending on what matters most to the project; sensors, wave gauges, telemetry and data collection devices are examples of the necessities. Morrow even designed his own 30-foot (nine-metre), 1500-gallon (5700-litre) wave tank to perform the initial tests on his equipment. It was during this phase where he would test if the designs worked as they were modelled to in a simulated environment, as well as to gauge potential environmental impacts the APEX could have on the ocean life. In the Oregon area, the strong crabbing community had a clear voice in the discussion of wave-energy, fearing that any sort of topside buoys would drastically reduce the area where crabbing could be undertaken. Although they preferred Morrow’s ocean-bottom design, there was concern over how the device action and electromagnetic signature would affect the surrounding sediment and wildlife.

Morrow knew that he would have to closely monitor the APEX to accurately determine the impact on the environment during the initial trials and long-term. He also knew it would be important to monitor the impact of the continuously crashing waves, assessing any damage to the unit while it is deployed. The innovative design completely encloses the turbine and uses air instead of oil and chemicals, minimising the hazard to the environment. Although the APEX would rest in only 50 feet (15 metres) of water, it lies one mile (1.6 kilometres) off the coast; Morrow considered the cost of sending divers down to systematically inspect the device and surrounding area, collecting data and sediment samples. This potential cost could quickly spiral out of control.

Morrow decided that a remotely operated vehicle could significantly help with the monitoring and sample collection while the APEX was deployed, although the significant cost and complexity to operate traditional ROVs were limiting factors. What Morrow required was a way to quickly and easily deploy an ROV with minimal topside requirements. This device would need robust design, and features to withstand the stress of ocean currents and transportation to many different launch sites, as well as the ability to collect sediment for environmental monitoring. When Morrow found the Deep Trekker ROV and realised it would pay for itself after only two missions, the decision was obvious. “Deep Trekker [ROV] is small enough and portable enough that we can be more flexible with our operations,” comments Morrow. “Launching from shore to conduct monitoring within minutes instead of days or weeks to mobilise a dive team.”

Armed with the Deep Trekker ROV, Morrow began the testing in his wave tank to familiarise himself with the controls and how to best retrieve data and sediment using the two-function sediment sampler arm. After months of testing both in Morrow’s wave tank and at the University of Oregon, M3 Wave successfully deployed the APEX on 4 September 2014 a mile off the shore of Oregon, leaving the device for three weeks to determine the validity of the project.

The deployment and trials were an extreme success, with the APEX successfully generating electricity. Sensors even showed the air moving through the pipe at more than 100 mph (160 kph). The use of the Deep Trekker ROV throughout the initial deployment and the three weeks the APEX remained at the bottom of the ocean provided critical understanding of how the APEX performed as well as accurate sediment data. M3 Wave painted segment markers on the sediment sampler arms in one-inch (25-millimetre) increments to provide a reference point for objects found underwater as the Deep Trekker ROV performed its inspections.

With this successful trial under its belt, M3 Wave looks forward to continuing its research to bring this product to remote areas where traditional electricity is not generated close by, albeit the company is still a long way from having a commercial product. In the meantime, Morrow plans to carry on using the Deep Trekker ROV to perform environmental research and sediment grabs.

M3 Wave and Deep Trekker are happy to be partners in striving to make a positive change to the way we see our world today. The successful deployment of M3 Wave’s new wave-energy technology shows how small, local companies can make a big impact in our world. The use of ROVs in research and environmental monitoring is becoming increasingly necessary – knowledge is imperative to ensuring the health of our oceans and ecosystems. Having access to an ROV for this project saved many costly dive missions. When divers were required, they were accompanied by the ROV in order to maximise their safety. It also made it easier to make sediment retrievals without disturbing the immediate environment or corrupting samples by having divers physically present.

Deep Trekker will continue to play a big role in how the mini-ROV market is shaped by providing a portable solution with sophisticated sensor systems such as sonar, USBL positioning, cutter attachments, HD recording and more, while still striving to be a strong partner with its customers no matter the size of the company.










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