Author: Matthew Kingsland – Communications Application Engineer
Now that you’ve got a good understanding of what BlueComm is, and the science behind it, let me talk you through the different versions and what they can do.
BlueComm100 was the first product we brought to market and was designed to give a consistent all-round performance in any ambient light condition. Housed in 4000 metre rated titanium, it’s the smallest unit we currently produce. It has three data rates; 1.25, 2.5 & 5 Megabytes per second (Mb/s) and a range up to 10 metres. The operational beam is a hemispherical shape allowing communication in a broad number of directions.
At shallow depths such as 100 metres, sun light is still prevalent so a typical use case for the BlueComm100 is to extract data from a data logger or video system deployed in shallow water. We have done several operations at shallow depths deploying the BlueComm100 from a small vessel of opportunity extracting data from subsea sensor systems. This creates an easy way for coastal scientists to retrieve and check data from scientific experiments early in their deployment. If the retrieved data isn’t useful, BlueComm can help make informed decisions on whether to leave the experiment or to move it. Standard copper Ethernet works up to 100 metres, so keeping this type of system to shallow depths helps avoid having to use expensive fibre tethers as well.
BlueComm200 is our long range optical modem, operating up to 150 metres it is designed for remote control of ROVs and live streaming of HD Video. To achieve maximum performance, the emitter and receiver elements are housed in separate 4000 metre rated aluminium (titanium housing options are available on request). The option exists for a second emitter, blue or white, providing either video illumination or a larger operational beam area. BlueComm200 supports data rates up to 12.5Mb/s. The BlueComm200 does struggle with ambient light thus we can provide white lights which are in sync with our communications and don’t affect the performance, or read on to for the BlueComm200 UV system designed to work with any ROV lighting.
Full autonomy for ROVs working in oil & gas environments is still many years away. In the interim the dream many are pushing for is resident ROVs. This is where the ROV lives in a subsea garage deployed in the oil & gas field. Having an ROV on site at all times obviously has its advantages as well as reducing ship costs. The ROV will still be piloted but from thousands of miles away on dry land. To control the ROV, a tether would be too cumbersome thus both acoustics and optical communications must be used.
On all the structures, a BlueComm200 will be installed. These BlueComms would be cabled back to shore and provide the backbone for ROV control & video during operations. As the ROV leaves the area of a structure to move to another structure, potentially hundreds of meters away, the control will swap from optics to acoustics. The acoustics provide long range communication at slow data rates allowing basic ROV command and control; stop, turn left, turn right, change depth etc. As well as allowing the position of the ROV to be monitored. When the ROV reaches the next structure the Optical communications will take over allowing HD video & a finer degree of control.
BlueComm200 UV is very similar to the BlueComm200 but operates in the UV spectrum with a visible spectrum filter. The UV light doesn’t travel through water as well as blue light, resulting in the UV system having a lower maximum range of ~80 metres. However, the visible spectrum filter removes all ROV lighting interference, allowing a consistent performance between dark and ROV/moderate light conditions. The system is currently limited to 12.5Mb/s but with ongoing testing we are planning on increasing this to 20Mb/s.
The BlueComm200 UV system is planned to work with our new video lander system as it is not practical for us to replace all the lights on an ROV. The video lander is a stationary camera designed to work in conjunction with a work class ROV. The video lander can be used to either look at specific objects or give a broad area overview. A typical example use-case would be when an ROV is increasing the pressure in a manifold but the operator is worried about applying too much pressure to old seals. The video lander can be deployed to monitor the seals, feeding live video back to the ROV while the pressure is increased.
BlueComm5000 is designed to deliver the fastest possible data rate. Capable of 600Mb/s upload from sea bed nodes, and 200Mb/s download at up to 7 metres range. The system is designed to be mounted on an AUV which autonomously travels from node to node harvesting large quantities of collected data. Previously, a tethered cable would have needed to be connected, or the nodes retrieved via costly ship-based operation.
If you would like to talk about anything you’ve read in my blogs, or would like more information on any of the BlueComm products, please get in contact and we can continue the discussion further.