Robot Sub Fights Oil Leak in Gulf of Mexico


By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

A fight for life broke out deep in the ocean last week as workers continue to struggle with an oil leak 5,000 feet below sea and first on the scene was a robot. According to CBS News, the gush is 42,000 gallons a day and a perilous threat to a vast food chain in the Gulf of Mexico.

Who made that robot? Schilling and REMOTEC come to mind as old warriors from the start of the maritime robotics market. Now there are dozens of companies that stake a claim in the robotic and remote underwater vehicle market.

The rig that exploded and sank was owned by BP Exploration and Development. No mention at all was made of the maker of the sub. Perhaps that illustrates how pervasive robots are in the marine sector – are there so many that this technology barely gets a nod even when it goes to places that pose the ultimate risk to life?

It’s not just a robot that is fighting to stave off the killer stain of this oil leak. It is a combination of technology and engineering that results in situational awareness and control through a robotic device. It is science and art. And if art imitates life then there is a delicious irony that the Father of Robotics, Joseph F. Engelberger himself, was a one-time submariner.

Robots are coming – what do you think they’ll do next?

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2 Responses to Robot Sub Fights Oil Leak in Gulf of Mexico

  1. Brian Huse says:

    Bloomberg Businessweek identifies Oceaneering International, a Texas based company, as the maker of the robots in use by BP to contain the catastrophic oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. More than $400 million in first quarter revenue is reported in Oceaneering’s 2010 quarterly earnings statement (Dec. 31 to March 31).

    Bloomberg Businessweek source: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-04/underwater-robots-probe-inner-space-to-plug-leaking-oil-well.html

    Oceaneering earnings source: http://www.oceaneering.com/

  2. Steve Evers says:

    Hopefully some of the brightest minds will think of a yet unknown technological solution to remotely cap or perhaps collapse these kinds of oil wells shut. Time is of the essence and no cogent plan seems to be forthcoming. What baffles me in all of these technical blogs is the general lack of discussion over how this could be done. One thing certain is that robots will certainly play a part.

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