1968 – AUTEC I and II Submersibles – General Dynamics (American)


1968 – AUTEC I and II Submersibles by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. Designated TURTLE and SEA CLIFF by the U.S. Navy.


Press Release – 1968 – Escape Capsule
GROTON, CONN.:  This artist's concept of an AUTEC Research Submarine shows the use of tools selected from an external tool compartment. In an emergency the crew can seperate the front section of the craft and float to ther surface. Two identical submarines, to be named AUTEC I and AUTEC II, are nearing completion for the US Navy at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. They will be able to carry 3-man crews.


Source: Manned Submersibles, Bushby.





Navy to get two new subs – 1968

AUTEC I and AUTEC II, two new deep submersibles being completed for the Navy by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, are similar in design to Alvin, except that they will be a little longer (25 feet), capable of a somewhat greater depth (6500 feet), they will have 2 mechanical arms instead of one, and a transparent plexiglass nose.



Each submersible is equipped with two identical manipulators. Each manipulator can be equipped with tools to perform varied tasks such as drilling, cable cutting, and grasping of objects. These tools are stored in racks on the submersible and can be interchanged during a mission. Each manipulator is capable of seven degrees of freedom.
Each arm can reach 7 feet 1 1/2 inch, can lift 100 lb., and is electro-hydraulic and can be manually jettisoned. They are manufactured by General Dynamics. Source: Manned Submersibles, Bushby.


See other early Underwater Robots here.

1966 – Underwater Power Source – Renic P Vincent, Lawrence B Wilder (American)



Underwater power source

Publication number    US3418818 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    31 Dec 1968
Filing date    22 Apr 1966
Priority date    22 Apr 1966
Inventors    Renic P Vincent, Lawrence B Wilder
Original Assignee    Pan American Petroleum Corp

ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A method and apparatus for supplying power to underwater apparatuses which makes use of the head of water at the depth of the apparatus to drive a hydraulic motor. A lower pressure container is provided to receive discharge water from the hydraulic motor. Means are further provided to rejuvenate the low pressure container.

This invention relates to apparatus for carrying out operations at underwater installations such, for example, as at an underwater wellhead, an underwater oil and gas producing facility or storage and the like. It relates particularly to a novel way of supplying power for such underwater apparatus.

The search for oil and gas has in recent years led to the drilling of many wells in water-covered areas. In fact, many of our more prolific oil and gas wells have been discovered in such marine locations. Many of the wells for the development of such fields may be drilled in water up to 600 feet or more in depth. These developments of offshore locations are resulting in the installation of large amounts of underwater equipment used in producing the oil and gas fields. Many of these installations are at depths below that at which divers can safely work. Therefore use has been made of what is known as an underwater manipulator in installing underwater equipment on the ocean floor for such wells or for carrying out workover operations underwater at any of the various ocean floor installations.

The manipulator may take various forms but usually includes a compartment maintained at near atmospheric pressure for the operator and is further provided with robot-like arms extending from the exterior of the compartment for performing various operations such as holding equipment, tightening or loosening bolts and the like. One such underwater manipulator is shown in US. Patent 3,165,899.

One of the major problems in the use of such underwater manipulators is that of providing an adequate power source for the various operations of the manipulator. Electrical storage batteries provide the most common means of power. However, these batteries add considerably to the bulk and weight as well as to the cost of such manipulators or vessels containing such manipulators.

It is an object of this invention to provide a novel means for supplying power for underwater manipulators.

In a preferred embodiment, an underwater vehicle which has a body structure for supporting the manipulator arms is provided with a high strength container (in addition to the operators compartment) which is able to withstand great pressures. A hydraulic motor is supported by the vehicle. The high pressure side or inlet of the hydraulic motor is connected to the water exterior of the vehicle which is at a pressure dependent upon its depth. For example, at a depth of 600 feet, the exterior pressure approaches 275 p.s.i. The discharge side of the hydraulic motor is connected to the container which is at atmospheric pressure or at about 15 p.s.i. The differential pressure across the hydraulic motor then is well over 250 p.s.i. which is quite substantial. As power is needed, water 3,418,818 Patented Dec. 31, 1968 from exterior the vehicle is admitted to the hydraulic motor.

The discharged water from the hydraulic motor eventually fills the container to the point that the pressure within the container approaches that of the Water at the depth of the vehicle. When the container becomes filled with water, according to our invention, the system can be rejuvenated rather easily. We have provided check valve means in an outlet from the container to the water surrounding the vehicle. The cheok valve means can be held shut by a spring aided by the hydraulic force exterior of the container. Before the vessel descends, a slow burning propellant in a water-proof enclosure is placed within the container. A suitable propellant is identified as Amoco Chemical AGF which is an ammonium nitrate base with an asphaltic filler and commercially available from Amoco Chemical Corporation, Seymour, Indiana. When the container is filled with water, the propellant is ignited and will burn at a pressure higher than the ambient water pressure and at a temperature of about 3535 F. This pressure forces the water out through the check valve and in effect readily empties the container of water. At the moment the gas has forced the water out, the gas remaining in the container is at a pressure about equal to that of the surrounding water but at a temperature much higher. The check valve then closes. As the gas cools, the pressure in the container drops rather rapidly until it is well below the pressure of the surrounding water. Thus the container is ready to receive additional water from the discharge of the hydraulic motors and the system has in effect been rejuvenated.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1966 – Underwater Manipulator System – John R Moore, James S Sweeney (American)


Underwater manipulator system

Publication number    US3414136 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    3 Dec 1968
Filing date    18 Jan 1966
Priority date    18 Jan 1966
Inventors    John R Moore, James S Sweeney
Original Assignee    North American Rockwell

ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE System for positioning an underwater manipulator arm to correspond with the position of an analog arm. The flow rate and pressure of the fluid transmitted to the hydraulic actuators used to move the manipulator arm are measured by transducers. The output of the transducers is integrated or otherwise processed by conversion circuits to produce a signal, indicative of the position of the manipulator, which signal is compared with another signal indicative of the analog arm position. An error signal thereby is produced which appropriately actuates valves controlling the fluid flow to the hydraulic actuators, thereby causing the manipulator arm to move to the desired position. Rate damping is provided to the analog arm to simulate the viscous damping experienced by the manipulator during motion in the viscous underwater medium.

This invention relates to an underwater manipulator system and more particularly to a system for controlling an underwater manipulator with an analog manipulator.

Conventional designs of underwater manipulator systems utilize bidirectional drive systems and binary control systems for the elements in the system. Visual observation is often relied on for position sensing. In more sophisticated control systems, optimal design utilizes controlled element position sensing. The position detector produces a signal proportional to the position of the device. From the detector signal and a reference signal, an error signal is produced to drive the controlled element. The lack of direct position sensing precludes precise control.

Control systems operated by simple binary switching to control position, velocity, etc. of a device tend to be difiicult to operate for accurate positioning.

Performance of a control loop composed of a simple drive system, large controlled element mass, lack of position sensing and transmission delay due to human reaction time is characterized by uncoordinated sequential manipulator movements, long action times and low precision.

Precision feedback by direct transducer sensing of the elements of the underwater manipulator is diflicult since the high pressure, corrosive undersea environment multiplies the problems of sealing the transducer and signal leads. Therefore, it is desirable to monitor the characteristics of the energy which actuates the elements of a manipulator.

The system of the present invention provides an improved control system which overcomes the deficiencies indicate dabove by measuring the characteristics of the actuating fluid, such as pressure and/or flow rate, to each manipulator element.

Briefly, the system comprises an analog arm of movable elements which may be positioned manually and an underwater manipulator of movable elements which is driven in accordance with signals generated by the analog arm to assume the same position. For example, if an element of the analog arm is positioned at a 45 angle with respect to a reference, the underwater arm element would be driven in synchronism to assume a 45 angle Patented Dec. 3, 1968 with respect to the reference. More specifically, the system utilizes a drive means which is responsive to the motion of an element of the analog arm and which provides a signal for driving an element of the underwater manipulator. Each element of the underwater manipulator includes a hydraulic position actuator which is driven by a fluid. Sensing means detects a corollary of the motion of each element of the underwater manipulator and generates a signal indicative of that motion. By knowing the initial position of the manipulator and the amount of motion, a new position can be determined if desired. The signal is generated by monitoring hydraulic fluid pressure and/or flow rate to a particular element being actuated. Each signal is compared by the drive means with a signal indicating the motion of an element of the analog arm. If they are different, an error signal is generated to drive the underwater arm until the amount of motion and therefore the signals are equal.

Each element of the analog arm includes sensing means and means for providing damping to approximate the natural damping of the underwater manipulator. Other features of the analog manipulator and arm are substantially the same except for size.

Although the analog arm may be positioned manually, in one embodiment, a computer monitored and controlled servo system is used. The terms arm and manipulator are interchangeable, although for clarity the analog portion is referred to as the arm and the external portion is referred to as a manipulator.

Therefore, it is an object of this invention to provide an underwater manipulator system having an improved positioning system.

It is another object of this invention to provide a system using anobservable analog device as a position reference for an underwater manipulator.

Another object of this invention is to provide a system reducing the visible detection required for the positioning of an underwater manipulator.

A still further object of this invention is to eliminate direct transducer sensing of the movablce elements of an underwater manipulator and to monitor the actuating hydraulic fluid characteristics for an indication of manipulator position.

A still further object of the invention is to provide rapid, accurate and coordinated manipulator control by measuring fluid pressure and/or flow rate to a manipulator element.


See other early Underwater Robots here.

1931-3 – “Explorer” Submersible – Simon Lake (American)


1931-3 – "Explorer" Submersible by Simon Lake.


The "Explorer" is located at Milford Landing Marina, 37 Helwig St. Milford Connecticut 06460.

The "Explorer" was the last boat built by the pioneering submarine designer and builder, Simon Lake. The Explorer was intended strictly for research and salvage and was linked to a mother ship for air and power. Divers could enter and leave the submarine through an escape hatch. The boat was also equipped with a mechanical arm and basket. Like Simon Lake's first great submarine, "The Argonaut, Jr." (1894), the "Explorer" could travel under water either by the propeller or along the ocean floor on drive wheels.

For the complete Simon Lake story, and source for some images, see here.









PopSci1872_story - Copy-x640

Source: Popular Science, May 1932.


Science and Mechanics 1933-04-x640

Cover and some images from Everyday Science and Mechanics, April 1933.



Portrait of Simon Lake.


Source: Popular Science, March 1933.



Patent Information

Submarine locating, harvesting, and recovery apparatus

Publication number    US1997149 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    Apr 9, 1935
Filing date    Oct 15, 1931
Priority date    Oct 15, 1931
Inventors    Simon Lake
Original Assignee    Simon Lake

This invention relates to submarine locating, harvesting and recovery apparatus, especially designed for recovering the natural products of the sea, but capable of co-operation with a surface vessel in locating and recovering sunken ships and cargoes and of removing or replacing rock in certain kinds of submarine engineering work. The invention embodies improvements on some of my previous devices on which Letters Patent of the United States of America have already been granted.

The object of the present invention is to provide a safe and more flexible submarine apparatus in which the operator is not subjected to hydrostatic pressure in deep water, as is a diver engaged in recovering sponges, pearl shells, edible shell fish, and other natural products of the sea when using the usual type of diving dress. At the same time it makes possible the recovery of much larger quantities of such products per man per diem. It is also well adapted to the securing of photographs of both animate and inanimate objects under the sea.





See other early Underwater Robots here.

1966-7 – DOWB Submersible – General Motors (American)


DEEP OCEAN WORK BOAT (DOWB), a two man submersible built by General Motors in the United States by General Motors AC Electronics Division, was initially launched on October l2, 1967.

Windowless, it has top and bottom "fish eye" lenses, plus television cameras, for full 360 degree vision.

A TV viewing system is mounted on the manipulator to give operators freedom of action necessary for performing useful work. The TV viewing feature will allow precision control when performing delicate operations or lifting objects.


 Source: Boy's Life, April 1968.


Image source: Manned Submersibles, Frank Bushby, 1976.


DOWB manipulator: One electro-mechanical manipulator possessing six degrees of freedom can pick up a 50 lb load at its maximum reach of 49 in. Manufactured by General Motors.

See other early Underwater Robots here.