ROV Owners & Operators are seeking cost and operational efficiencies more than ever before due to the current global subsea climate. The ROV industry relies on dedicated research and technical innovation from its engineering suppliers, to identify these cost management opportunities.

Due to the harsh environment of Subsea operations, Offshore project managers are often met with the issue of significant ROV Manipulator repair or replacement costs following task completion. Despite the project budget having been determined and the ROV performing well, following demobilisation the operator can be faced with a five-figure repair charge, due to the harsh environment, heavy lifting, and sudden movements from the ROV in operation. To mitigate this recurring concern, many ROV Operators have decided to utilise Schilling Atlas 7R(rate controlled) arms alongside Schilling T4 7P(position controlled) Manipulators. The pairing of the two 7 function arms allows a lot more flexibility compared to the traditional combination of the T4 7P and 5 function grabber. The Atlas 7R is stronger and more robust than the T4 and can be used where heavy-duty work could lead to harm of the T4. This pairing is becoming more popular with ROV Operators who can see the advantages and realise the potential costs savings as well as reduced damage.

Previously, it has been recognised that a limiting factor of the Atlas 7R was smooth control. Aleron identified this limitation following discussions with customers, ROV pilots, peers & partners, and set out to bring innovative solutions to market to address the issues and improve control to better support their client’s objectives.

Often ROV Operators may not be selecting the most appropriate manipulator for the task in hand. The high value, high specification T4 is often beyond requirement and not suited to certain heavy and high vibration jobs. The T4 can be damaged when used for the wrong task or used incorrectly completing that task. Some ROV Operators have also commented on possible oil leakage when using the T4 which can be an area of significant environmental concern. The Atlas is environmentally proven to reduce oil spillage compared with the T4, as its joints are operated by cylinders, which have double barrier sealing arrangements and protected rods, resulting in limited leak points. The high dexterity and complex electronics in the T4 mean it is less robust and has the increased likelihood of damage, leading to downtime which has a large cost implication on the wider project. Furthermore, the in-depth training required to competently operate and maintain a T4 can be both timely, and costly. The training is imperative to reduce the risk of damage to both the ROV arm itself and more importantly the client’s asset.

To combat these concerns Aleron offer a variety of manipulator upgrade packages for most 7-function rate-controlled manipulators. The basic package includes an 8 Station compact proportional Intelligent Valve Pack (IVP), compact touch screen Aleron Manipulator Controller (AMC) with Bluetooth or hard-wired gaming control and optional seven function Pendant control, which is familiar to all ROV pilots. The new Pendant is USB configured which will allow it to be remotely mounted on the pilot’s console or chair. Targeted at Atlas, Orion & Conan manipulator arms, the upgrade offers an extremely cost-efficient solution to provide smooth and accurate proportional control of heavier duty manipulators. The use of this new solution could in turn save potential damage to the T4 and the resulting expensive repairs.

Aleron also cooperates with Olis Robotics to offer a further solution with the Olis Master Controller. The controller is plug and play compatible with Schilling T4 7P manipulators and upgraded Atlas 7P manipulators that have added positional sensors and alternative servo valve pack. This upgraded version of the Atlas 7P offers closed loop positional feedback similar to the T4, with the increased robustness of the Atlas and all the added features of the Olis Master Controller. The Olis Master Controller offers touch screen, memory functions, auto functions, repeat functions, safety limits, guided auto stow in/out and can shift control from joint orientated to jaw position control. The controller is IP enabled to allow remote piloting over ethernet offering a step forward in manipulator control from purely manual control to assisted automation locally and remotely.

Throughout development of the manipulator control solutions, the Aleron team were dedicated to addressing an array of issues experienced by all ROV pilots, utilising their expert knowledge on the practical use of manipulators subsea and installation onto existing ROVs. The compact Proportional Valve Pack and Servo Valve Pack reduce the need for additional hoses and increased leak points, as well as saving valuable ROV space.

The Aleron Manipulator Upgrade packages were completed in 2020 and deployed on the Aleron rental fleet. Aleron recently completed two Conan upgrades utilising the new IVP at a fraction of the cost of a new manipulator or a series of repair bills. The Aleron expert in-house team of software engineers can configure the software to varying requirements and customer specifics to create a bespoke and reliable solution.

Following the key appointments of John Walker & David Currie in 2019/2020 bringing with them over 30 years of experience in the industry, Aleron have been committed to developing & enhancing the Aleron ROV Tooling offerings and Manipulator services. Now with the largest and youngest Manipulator fleet in the market, Aleron stock an extensive rental pool of Schilling T4’s, Atlas 7R, Rigmasters, Orions & Conan manipulators utilising the upgrade packages, enhancing their controllability and achieving significant cost efficiencies for Aleron clients.

Contact Aleron to discuss your requirements further.