Interview by Luis Greiffenhagen
We heard a lot about the ROV dives and its missions. But all of this is only possible thanks to the ROV team of NOC that is engineering and piloting ROV ISIS. You might ask yourself what it is like to be piloting a vehicle thousands of meters below the surface. ROV pilot Martin Yeomans kindly answered a few questions for us…
How did you become an ROV pilot?
For me, I studied mechanical engineering at Portsmouth university and spent 4 years in industry, improving and learning more in the field. I then applied to be a ROV Pilot/Engineer at the NOC where most training is on the job and spans 2/3 years + though there is always more to learn and know, as the sector and technology is continuously improving and changing!
What do you love about your job?
The job is so diverse! You’re in the office one moment planning and designing, then in the hanger/workshop working on the vehicle, next thing you’re out on the ocean exploring the sea floor, seeing some incredible marine creatures and environments! The other enjoyable part is when you have the technical challenges to overcome to meet science objectives, the piloting of the vehicle and using the manipulators for any task that is required subsea!
When in the water, who of the team is doing what?
The team is split into two shift patterns plus a supervisor that covers a shift that overlaps both. During a dive, we rotate our positions between the pilot seat and co-pilot/engineers’ seat. The engineer will operate the manipulators and other hydraulics, control ships positioning to manage the umbilical and ROV subsea (This can all change depending on what the environment and currents are like), operating / adjusting the navigation and monitor all the systems to ensure they are operating correctly.
The pilot will fly the ROV to the specified way points and setup for sampling. They will assist the engineer by operating the cameras, adjusting them when needed. They are also the ones that have to operate the vehicle smoothly in challenging environments, being alert to any environmental changes in terrain such as overhanging cliffs, the current and visibility to name a few. All which can be extremely challenging!
What was the scariest / most difficult situation on this cruise’s dives?
Operating through the dynamic canyon environments with strong currents and poor visibility!
What was your favourite dive so far?
There was a dive where we were sampling and a ray decided to come along and pay us a visit as well as getting a view of a blue shark during the recovery.
What kind of work happens before/after the cruises?
There are many jobs that need doing though in to summarise for pre-dive it will be any configuration changes depending on the mission objectives, system checks and setting up the data bases/logs.
Post-dive, we prepare the vehicle and make it safe for scientists to collect their samples, oil samples are taken to check for any contaminants and water ingress, fault finding and repairs if needed, all data is collated and host of other checks are done in readiness for the next pre-dive.
How do you like life on a ship?
Life on the ship is great! The commute to work is short… you get to meet so many interesting people from all over the globe with some great stories and the food is good too, its hard not to say no to the desserts!