Phoenix International Holdings, Inc. (Phoenix) successfully performed a detailed video inspection of the Deepwater Horizon control room lying in 5000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico using its micro-ROV, xBot III. The inspection was part of an investigation led by the U.S. Coast Guard and conducted by the Navy's Office of the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV).
Phoenix is SUPSALV's prime contractor for underwater search and recovery and, for this effort, mobilized and operated one of the Navy's deep water ROVs, Deep Drone. The Navy also contracted for use of xBot, a Phoenix owned asset used for commercial operations. xBot and its cage were integrated onto Deep Drone prior to mobilization to the job site.
The Phoenix designed micro-ROV is a battery powered, fiber optically controlled vehicle that relies on extensive use of company designed, pressure tolerant electronic and energy systems. The result is a very small, highly maneuverable, yet stable, underwater vehicle for penetration and inspection of highly restricted spaces and other hazardous environments in water depths to 20,000 feet. xBot contains an onboard supply of expendable fiber optic umbilical, and unlike cable powered ROVs, does not need to retrace its route in order to use the same location for ingress and egress.
Deep Drone collected extensive external video documentation on the present condition of the sunken rig, while xBot was used to penetrate confined spaces and conduct internal inspections as directed by the investigation team. xBot's unique design features allowed the collection of information within the jumbled wreckage otherwise unobtainable if more traditional underwater systems had been used. Multiple excursions were expeditiously conducted, with all project goals met ahead of schedule.
Upon completely satisfying the investigators' video requirements, xBot returned to its cage onboard Deep Drone where its umbilical was cut free using Deep Drone's manipulators. Deep Drone then returned to the surface and a new fiber optic umbilical spool was quickly installed on xBot in preparation for its next excursion. xBot's flawless performance throughout the project attests to its reliability, operability, and suitability for such challenging tasks, and its modular design permitted very short turn-around times between missions.