Posts Tagged ‘American’

1964 – UNUMO UNiversal Underwater MObot – Hughes Aircraft (American)


Source: The Advanced Handbook of Robotics, Safford.



Source: Popular Mechanics, Aug, 1963.


Source: Teleoperator Operations.


The MOBOT (MObile roBOT) was developed by Hughes Aircraft Company and is used by Shell Oil Company of California as an underwater wellhead manipulator. MOBOT, which is shown in Figure 16, consists of an electro-hydraulic vehicle designed to be lowered into the ocean, land on a track, and operated to insert or break out screws arranged in a horizontal axis. The MOBOT's operations are directed from the surface by means of a closed-circuit television network supported by acoustic sensors. MOBOT, because of the nature of the work it must perform, is very specialized and therefore is limited with respect to the underwater work it can perform. A more advanced version of MOBOT has been proposed but to date has not been constructed. This advanced vehicle called UNUMO is also shown In Figure 16.

Related Patents:


Underwater manipulator with suction support device

Publication number    US3165899
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    19 Jan 1965
Filing date    11 Sep 1963
Inventor    Howard L. Shatto Jr.
Original Assignee    Shell Oil Co

This invention relates to apparatus for carrying out operations at underwater installations and pertains more particularly to a method and apparatus for manipulating equipment in the vicinity of, or which are components on, an underwater installation, such for example as an underwater wellhead, an underwater oil and gas production facility, storage facilities, etc.

A recent development at offshore locations is the installation of large amounts of underwater equipment used in producing oil fields and gas fields situated many miles from shore. Many of the wells are being drilled in water up to 600 feet deep, a depth greater than divers can safely work. Thus, in drilling wells, producing wells, installing underwater equipment on the ocean floor, and carrying out work over operations underwater at any of the various ocean floor installations, use has been made of what is known as an underwater manipulator. One such manipulator is described in US. Patent 3,099,316, which manipulator makes use of a track secured to the underwater installation on which the manipulator is designed to be seated and moved thereon. However, many underwater structures may not be provided with a manipulator track at the time they are installed or positioned at an underwater installation so that in the event that it is necessary to make repairs at a later date, a manipulator of the above-mentioned type cannot be readily employed.

Consideration has been given to the use of magnets or electromagnets carried by a manipulator device by which the manipulator device could be secured to an underwater installation during the time it is carrying out a particular operation thereon. However, in order to combat sea water corrosion, there has been a tendency to make more of the underwater equipment of stainless steel on which electro-magnets cannot be used to mount a manipulator device.

It is therefore a primary object of the present invention to provide a manipulator device provided with suitable connector means for securing it to any underwater installation whether made of magnetic or nonmagnetic materials.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a manipulator apparatus for use on component parts of underwater installations, which parts are so large or smooth that it is impossible to engage it by a mechanical gripping device such as a claw arm, hook, etc.

Another object of the present invention is to provide an underwater manipulator device having means for supporting it on the smooth outer wall of a large diameter storage tank or other vessel position on the ocean floor or at enormous depths below the surface of the ocean.

A still further object of the present invention is to provide a remotely controlled manipulator device adapted to move through a body of water and be temporarily secured to a smooth surface of an underwater installation for carrying out the various operations of setting, adjusting, connecting or disconnecting component parts of the underwater installation.

Related patent by Shatto:

Ship Control Apparatus: Publication number  US3154854.


Publication number    US3105453
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    1 Oct 1963
Filing date    24 Nov 1961
Inventors    William J. Hayes
Original Assignee    Shell Oil Co

Ship control system

This invention pertains to a method of ship control and more particularly to a method for positioning a mother ship with relation to a submarine vehicle or operator.

In many marine operations it is necessary to have a submarine vehicle or robot operator operating below the surface of a body of water or moving along the floor of a body of Water to perform various operations. These submarine vehicles are free-moving vehicles that are controlled and operated from a mother ship floating on the surface. While the submarine vehicles are controlled from the surface, it is desirable that they be moved without regard to the position of the mother ship. The mother ship is then positioned with relation to the submarine vehicle in order to maintain the proper relationship between the mother ship and the submarine vehicle.

In the past it has been the practice to manually control the mother ship to follow the movements of the submarine vehicle. This method requires skilled personnel to observe the movements of the submarine vehicle and operate the controls of the mother ship so that it can follow these movements. Even with the use of skilled personnel it is very difficult to follow a freely moving submarine vehicle. This results in curtailment of the sub marine vehicles movements in order to permit the operating personnel to properly position the mother ship.

Accordingly, it is the principal object of this invention to provide a novel method of control to permit the mother ship to accurately follow the movements of a submarine vehicle.

A further object of this invention is to provide a novel method for positioning a mother ship to follow the course of a submarine vessel within certain preset limits.

A still further object of this invention is to provide a unique automatic control system for a mother ship to permit it to follow the movements of a submarine vessel wherein the angular deflection of a control line between the mother ship and the submarine vessel is determined, the angular deflection then being used to control the movements of the mother ship.

The above objects and advantages of this invention are achieved by providing a control line between the submarine vehicle and the mother ship. The angular deflection of this control line is then measured in two fixed planes that are oriented with the longitudinal and athwartships axes of the mother ship. These angular deflections are then compared with preset values in order to obtain error signals. The preset values are adjusted to provide the required freedom of movement of the submarine vehicle within a limited radius of the mother ship. The error signals are then vectorially combined and used to operate the thrust producing devices of the mother ship.

Early Hughes Underwater MOBOT concepts







Tyler Priest – University of Iowa

Shatto and other Pacific Coast engineers also developed an experimental underwater completion system that addressed the perceived need for diverless operations in a unique way. Code-named MO, for "manipulator operated," the system featured the use of a free-swimming remote-controlled robot "diver" designed by Hughes Tool, which had a mechanical arm capable of turning lock screws, operating valves, and attaching control hoses and guidelines. Driven by propellers and guided by sonar and a television camera, the so-called "Mobot" could be lowered by a wire cable and attached to the wellhead equipment. It then rode around the wellhead on a circular track to perform its tasks. Source: here.

Partial Transcript of Oral History of Howard Shatto


Title     Shatto, Howard
Creator (LCNAF)      University of Houston : Houston History Project

    Pratt, Joseph A., interviewer
    Priest, Tyler, interviewer

Date     October 2, 1999

TP: We are conducting this interview of the Offshore Hall of Fame 1999 inductees. ……………..
TP: …….. Let's go back and talk about wellheads.
HS: In January, 1960, I moved to the Marine Division and started the highly secret development of underwater completions for drilling and production. The whole effort was based on the idea that we didn't need and didn't want guidelines. We wanted a guideline-less system. We didn't want to have to use divers because we expected to go to water depths a great deal deeper than divers were able to go, at least at that time. But we needed something like divers. So Bill Bates and Glen Johnson had squirreled up some schemes and sold Ned Clark, who was the executive vice-president of E&P in New York, on the idea of running a parallel development to the one that was going on at the lab in Houston. And I was the Division Engineer for that project starting in January, 1960. What we did was based on some work that Hughes Aircraft had done. They were doing work in atomic energy plants with remotely operated arms, and they had developed some electrically operated arms. So we contacted them and they were willing to work with us under great wraps of secrecy. So we started working on two efforts for underwater vehicles. One was heavy and meant to operate with little railroad wheels around a circular track made around the wellhead, so we could land it on this track using propellers to swim it into position and a television camera to see where we were going.
TP: Is this what you would call Mobot?
HS: That was called Mobot, which was a Hughes Aircraft name for Mobile Robot. That first vehicle also had a scanning sonar that could see where a wellhead was. We could see a wellhead from 1,000 feet away. So we could lower whatever we got out to a wellhead. If we had the leave one, we could lower the Mobot, turn on the scanning sonar, pick up the wellhead, move the ship in that direction, pick it up on television, land the Mobot on the wellhead and use it to operate all kinds of things. Most of it at the start was to lock down or unlock the wellheads, or to lock the blowout preventer onto the wellhead or to unlock it, to override the rams on the blowout preventer, and to operate lock down screws to hold down the blowout protection sleeve. It had a lot of functions. And we even developed ways that it could be used to attach a flowline to the wellhead.
TP: You were working on this in New Orleans or in California?
HS: This was in California. This was an effort that was really in competition with the one going on.
TP: So the marine division in California, you say?
HS: Right, the marine division in California. I was Division Engineer for that. My boss was the division manager, Bill Bates. I had four guys working for me. Ron Dozier was looking at building the ship that became the first dynamically positioned ship. Bruce Watkins was working for me. He was developing the blowout preventer and some of the wellhead equipment. I think he is an honoree tonight. Bill Peterson came to work for us. He was interviewed here just a bit ago. Who else? Ben Gethfort was one. A couple of others.
TP: You were in competition with what shell …
HS: We were in competition with the group that was working in Houston at the Shell lab at Bellaire Research, which was developing underwater completions and had started maybe a year before we did, maybe less. We actually had a wellhead on the ocean floor before they did. It was supposed to be a diverless system. There was a lot of money made by divers working on diverless underwater completions. Ours was meant to work with the robot instead of divers. The system in Houston had guidelines and we were trying to get rid of guidelines.
TP: Was Shell pushing these two developments just to hedge itself, because they saw the technology could possibly be going in two different directions? You had to deal with the fact that the E&P organization on the west coast and east of the Rockies were really distinct entities in some
HS: Very. The people in the Gulf Coast, the ones in Houston said we have to use guidelines. We can't use a robot or anything that depends on television to see or even divers because the water is so muddy from the Mississippi that people can't see out there. We were drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in very deep water and the television worked just fine with ROVs. We were right there working on that development. The old diverless systems are no more. They all worked with ROVs.
TP: To follow up a little bit on Mobot, how was it deployed?
HS: We actually had two of them we developed. One was the wellhead Mobot, and it was the heavy one that landed on a track and went around. It had no arms but it had a hydraulically-operated screw drive with an-inch-and-an­eighth hex head wrench socket, which we could put over the nuts on the wellhead and turn them right or left to operate valves or whatever it was we wanted to do. It had a telescopic extension. It could raise or lower the head which included the television cameras. That was the wellhead Mobot. At the same time, we began development of what they called the Unimo, or universal mobot, and its purpose was, more than the wellhead mobot, to take the place of divers to do the kinds of unexpected things that divers could do that the wellhead mobot was really not going to be able to do with just a simple socket wrench. It could do the heavy stuff that you could plan for well ahead of time, but the UNUMO was equipped with arms and was nearly neutrally buoyant. So the idea with it was very much like present day ROVs to be able to swim to where it needed to be to work on something, and then with its arms, to get a hold of it and do what it needed to do -­untangle something, tie something, or cut cables or lines, pick up something and then drop or loss, whatever. Things a diver might be able to do.
TP: It seems ahead of its time.
HS: It was. It was in a couple of ways. One was that the reliability of both the systems was very poor. They used vacuum tubes. You are probably too young to remember how often you had to replace those in radios! But they were not very reliable. Our development got superseded when the man in charge of the effort in Houston was promoted to take Ed Clark's place in New York as Executive Vice­President of Production.
TP: McAdams?
HS: No, it was Bert Easton.
TP: McAdams was exploration, right?
HS: Right. They decided that they wanted to combine these two very different systems into one, and in the process, they did away with the robots and mobots and just went to a guideline operated system. It was rather like the one being developed in Houston. That is when I went to licensing and head office and Ron Geer came to be the manager of the group that developed a combined system. He had come out of the Houston effort, so the system ended up looking like the Houston effort. And the ROVs got superseded.
TP: It was ahead of its time, but it still was a precedent. Can you maybe talk about how the industry went from Shell's development of the mobot back in the early 1960s to what they are using today in deep water and the ROVs?
HS: ROVs had just begun to be used for drilling support. A couple of people have used them in shallow water. In 1981, when Shell wanted to drill in deep water on the east coast, we took a contract then with the offshore company who had The Discover Seven Seas. We modified it to go to deeper water — high currents, rough seas, off the Atlantic coast. Up until that time, they had been using a little two-man submarine to find their wellheads if they lost them, and they were their only contact with the ocean floor and on the way down. I thought that could be done much better with ROVs. In the meantime, people had begun development of ROVs for the Navy. Not Honeywell but an outfit in La Jolla.
TP: Lockheed?
HS: No. A little company in Sorrento Valley there developed a little flying eyeball ROV for the Navy. Hydroproducts. I found out about that and decided that Shell ought to be able to use something like that. So we contacted what is now Oceaneering. I saw you talking to Mike Hughes. Mike bought Solis. Solis was the company with Dick Brisby, whom you also ought to interview. Dick Brisby was working on ROVs. They had used them for drilling support for shallower water. They were ready to build one for 7,500 foot water depths, which more than doubled what their capability at that time. They said they could, and I worked with them on developing that system. We put fiberoptics on it, which turned out to be a real boon in the ROV business and was very successful. In fact, we built two of them just for reliability's sake and had both of them aboard. We used one to cannibalize to keep the other one outfitted properly. We put that to work and got rid of the submarine after a lot of haggling. Some people didn't want to see the submarine leave and an ROV come into operation. There were some people who said ROVs had no place in the drilling business, and that there were some companies that said that for many years. But now, they all are happy to use ROVs in their operations.
TP: What was the bias against them? They didn't think they could work?
HS: They thought guidelines would work O.K., and they could use divers if they had to. Of course, we are drilling up where divers can't possibly go now. Citgo held out for many years. I remember I got a call one day from Earl Shanks who was with Citgo at that time. They were drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and had dynamic positioning of one of their rigs. It moved off location and had stretched the riser. They couldn't get loose from the wellhead. He asked me if there was any place I knew of that they could get hold of an ROV in a hurry. They weren't using them at the time. They do now on all their rigs.
TP: You developed something 40 years ago but only really saw it come into use on a widespread basis within the last 10 or 15 years?
HS: Yes. We started that work with dynamic positioning and ROVs in 1960. Dynamic positioning wasn't used on a drilling rig until we did it with the Citgo 445 10 years later. It was another 10 years later or more, in 1981, when we took the Seven Seas to go to very deep water using ROVs. I have been working for the past 12 years. Since I have retired from Shell, I have been working on almost all of the new rigs, doing a lot for the oil companies, some for Shell, BP, Amoco, Chevron, Global Explorer and several others such as Exxon. Vastar has a new rig coming up. And for several of the drilling contractors .
TP: You are working mostly with drill ship dynamic positionings on deep water drill ships?
HS: Dynamic positioning on deep water drill ships, and the use of ROVs and ROV interfacing. I mentioned to you that some of the work I had done with that mechanical resonant energy research outfit in La Jolla turned out to be useful. One of the problems with running ROVs in deep water is that the cages run as a heavy thing on a long cable. Then the ROV comes out of the cage on a tether to do a tour. A heavy cage is used to keep it under the ship so it doesn't drift away in the current. It doesn't give the ROV such a heavy, long thing to work with, I guess. But if you are working with a small vessel and the vessel is going up and down with the wave action and heave, you can get into a resonant condition between the ship and gets too active, then the cable can go slack. And then when the ROV comes down, it will jerk against the plot cable when it becomes taut. The question is how much are the forces induced in the cable and can the cable stand that kind of a beating? The work I had done with the resonance systems seemed to fit in perfectly. I could analyze that kind of stuff. Piece of cake!
TP: Looking back at all the innovative things that you have been involved in, what was the source of your inspiration for coming up with a new concept, or applying things to certain areas that no one had thought of before?
HS: The need was almost always there, and it seemed when we started in 1960, everything we wanted to do was new. Nobody had done it before. So we got a lot of patents. I ended up with 35 patents in the U.S. and Canada, and a lot of them are also filed overseas in various countries. So the need is there. Once the need is there, if you can just keep thinking, a solution somehow or other will come to you. Sometimes, a lot of ways arise that it could be done. The concept for dynamic positioning control, to solve the vectors that needed to be solved so you could direct each of two positioning thrusters, came while I was on the freeway. I had been thinking about it. I had thought up all kinds of wrong ways to do it — ways that would not be right. All of a sudden, driving down the freeway one sunny afternoon, the answer just suddenly was there. And it makes goose bumps stand up when it happens.
TP: It seemed like Shell was very good at both the theoretical side in basic research and communication between the people who were doing pure research and the operating side — being able to get this feedback from what is happening in the field and developing things they need for the field.
HS: It was an exceptional time when everything we thought of was brand new. Communication, in a way, was shut down because . . .
TP: Because of the secrecy?
HS: They had taken us out of the telephone book. People thought we had died or gone away. But we did communicate with our competitors in the research group in Houston. We were reasonably free to do that, although the systems that we were developing were very much in competition. We did communicate among each other pretty well. ……….

See other Hughes Mobot-related posts here.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1962 – Underwater MOBOT – Hughes Aircraft (American)


Source: Meccano Magazine, Feb, 1963.
….. I am introducing you to a machine known as Mobot, pictured above. Developed by the Shell Oil Company in the U.S.A., Mobot can work on oil wells 1,000 feet down on the ocean bed. It can swim, see, hear, and has a "nose" that can turn screws, work valves, and grip pipes and hoses. It can also wield a wire brush and other tools.
Mobot's first job was to complete a well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. As you probably know, because most of the promising areas on land have already been explored, drilling in the open sea has become the oil companies' biggest hope of finding new oil and gas fields. Since, however, exploration at great depths rules out the use of conventional well-head equipment, placed on a platform projecting above the water, the necessary components have to be assembled on the floor of the ocean itself, and the well put into production by remote methods. Mobot can carry out these tasks at greater depths, and for longer periods, than any human deep-sea diver could cope with. Electro-hydraulically operated from a master control centre aboard the drilling vessel, Mobot swims down to its work, using two adjustable propellers. A gyroscope gives it a sense of equilibrium. The device can see up to 30 feet by means of self-contained lighting and a TV camera, which transmits its field of view to a screen in the control centre. Sonar acoustic equipment, possessing a bat-like squeak, is used to locate well-head or other metal objects at greater distances. A sensitive microphone enables the robot to listen to the various operations it performs. THE EDITOR



In this application, referred to as 'Welmo'. Image source: The Complete Handbook of Robotics, Safford.


Caption: SHIPBOARD control panel, television screen, and other devices used to monitor and guide the robot's underwater activities are shown above. Shell Oil Company uses the robot to perform work on submerged wellheads, but it could be used for other deep-sea jobs.

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Caption: MOBOT'S powerful claw is adjusted by workmen prior to lowering the robot into the sea for routine task.

Undersea-robots-SMaug63_0003 - Copy-x640

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Caption: MOBOT'S electronic "brain" components are sealed in a pod (below) at the bottom of robot. Principal parts (left) of the 7000-lb. monster are: (1) cord protector (2) mercury vapor lights (3) TV camera (4) sound microphone (5) hydraulic arm with socket wrench attachment (6) hydraulic lift to raise arm, TV, lights up to 8 ft. height (7) motor-driven wheels (8) propellers (9) pressurized tank for hydraulic lift (10) bumper wheels to ride on wellhead (11) compressed gas tanks to pressurize electronic pod (12) electronic pod.

Source: Science and Mechanics, August 1963.

MAN now knows more about the vast reaches of space than he does about the comparatively minute and mysterious submerged ocean world. He has a greater knowledge of Venus, which revolves about our sun at a mean distance of 67,200,000 miles, than of the mysteries hidden by the greatest known ocean depths of the 35,400- ft. Mindanao Deeps. Now Shell Oil Company has developed a mechanical robot who is at home in the sea. Named "MOBOT," it is knocking on the door beyond which lies the world of the secretive sea.

Mobot is a true mechanical giant. He stands a towering 14 feet high, is five feet in diameter, and weighs a solid 7,000 pounds on land. In the sea for which he was created his weight is reduced to 3,800 pounds. At present he is at home at depths down to 1,000 feet, where he is a hardworking counterpart of a human diver.

Mobot can see by means of a television camera with an underwater range of 30 feet. Beyond this range he depends on sonar search equipment to locate metallic objects at ranges up to 1,400 feet. He can automatically scan a full 180° which gives him great range. An "umbilical cord," consisting of a 52-conductor electrical element, secures him to a master control board situated on a ship stationed overhead. There an operator guides him, electronically, to perform various underwater duties with human-like dexterity.
A gyrocompass gives Mobot a sense of direction. He "swims" in the water by means of two adjustable propellers, one on each side. His electronic heart and brain are neatly contained in a pressurized pod at the bottom of his giant frame. Darkness is of no consequence, for he has his own lights in the form of two 800-watt mercury vapor lamps mounted on the TV camera housing.
For work, he has a hydraulic arm to which a socket wrench is generally attached. Other hydraulically operated tools, such as grippers, may also be used in place of the socket wrench. The socket rotates at a speed of 20 rpm at a torque of 1,000 foot-pounds. Mobot is a formidable mechanical man indeed.
For what exact purpose did Shell Oil Company develop this explorer of the depths? That is simply answered: to replace the limited human deep-sea diver and to perform all necessary underwater operations. Mobot can go deeper and stay longer than a human diver. He is an extremely effective means for locating and facilitating reentry into an existing oil well on the floor of the ocean. He can tighten or loosen bolts or nuts on the undersea oil wellhead, operate valves, use a wire brush, and grip pipe and hoses with the proper amount of pressure. Unlike humans, he takes no coffee or lunch breaks.
Just how does Mobot manage to stay in close contact with the wellhead on which he is working despite deep-sea currents which might tend to make him drift away? A circular track on the underwater well-head entables him to run his motor-driven wheels on the rail. He rides the rail while he performs the jobs of changing vertical flange bolts, horizontal lock screws, or turning valves.
Dr. J. W. Clark, of Hughes Aircraft Company which cooperated in the building of Shell's Mobot, foresees a rewarding future in the use of deep-sea robots. In addition to underwater petroleum drilling, we can flatly predict that exciting underwater exploration, mining, farming, and salvage operations are now possible.
A great adventure befell Mobot one day. Scientists still have not come up with a satisfactory answer for it. Aboard ship, seated before the television screen which monitored the robot's undersea actions, was Forrest Adrian. Mobot was busily checking a complex of oil equipment with his mighty, sensitive arm.
Suddenly Adrian caught his breath in unbelief at what appeared on the screen. From his throat rose an amazed cry. First to respond was a drilling foreman, Paul Martin. "Look!", Adrian yelled, pointing at the screen with a shaking finger. Martin sucked in his breath at what the screen revealed. Cavorting like a corkscrew gone haywire before the eyes of the startled men was a snake-like creature about 15 feet long. A rough and bumpy ridge encircled its wriggling form like a crude spiral, and it swam with the brisk boring action of a corkscrew.
The deep-sea divers among the amazed crewmen stared at the sea denizen with utter unbelief. They had all seen many strange forms of sea life, but nothing like this creature had ever been seen by any of them. Undisturbed by the nearness of his strange visitor, Mobot continued with his duties 180 feet beneath the surface of the sea.
The living corkscrew appeared and disappeared at intervals. It seemed to become either larger or smaller whenever it reappeared. This led the spectators to believe there were several of the nightmarish beasts in range of the underwater television camera with which Mobot was equipped. Yet only a single creature appeared on the screen in each instance.
At the time of this writing the strange creature still remains unidentified. Shell officials are anxious to learn what the creature is. They want to know if it is capable of endangering human divers or damaging undersea equipment. Scientists on marine life have been consulted, but as yet no positive identification has been made. But all this means nothing to Mobot, and, on the next appearance of this strange creature, he may be directed to capture it in his mighty claw.
Whether it will prove to be friend or foe is still to be determined. But the hopeful Shell people have christened it "Marvin," because the name means "sea friend." States John Prescott, curator of fish at Marineland: "About the only way we'll be able to make a sure identification is to actually have a specimen to examine." Lets hope that Marvin proves to be a friend!"


The MOBOT (MObile roBOT) was developed by Hughes Aircraft Company and is used by Shell Oil Company of California as an underwater wellhead manipulator. MOBOT, which is shown in Figure 16, consists of an electro-hydraulic vehicle designed to be lowered into the ocean, land on a track, and operated to insert or break out screws arranged in a horizontal axis. The MOBOT's operations are directed from the surface by means of a closed-circuit television network supported by acoustic sensors. MOBOT, because of the nature of the work it must perform, is very specialized and therefore is limited with respect to the underwater work it can perform. A more advanced version of MOBOT has been proposed but to date has not been constructed. This advanced vehicle called UNUMO is also shown In Figure 16.


Press Release: PORT HUENEME, Calif., Oct. 31–ROBOT GOES TO SEA–Workmen stand by as Shell Oil Company's underwater robot is lowered into the ocean at Port Hueneme, Calif. yesterday. It was the first public showing for the mechanical roustabout, a remote-controlled quarter-million-dollar gadget that swims, sees hears and has an arm to turn valves and wield tools. The robot in designed to help in drilling and maintenance of oil fields hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean. The robot is equipped …



Underwater wellhead apparatus and method
Publication number    US3099316
Publication date    30 Jul 1963
Filing date    25 Apr 1960
Inventor:    Johnson Glenn D
Original Assignee    Shell Oil Co

 This invention relates to offshore wells drilled in earth formations lying below a body of water, wherein the wellhead equipment of the well is positioned below the surface of the water. The invention pertains more particularly to a method and apparatus for manipulating equipment in the vicinity of, or which are components on, an underwater wellhead.

At present, offshore wells are drilled either from stationary platforms anchored to the ocean floor, movable barges temporarily positioned on the ocean floor or from movable barges floating on the body of water in which drilling operations are being carried out. Regardless of the manner in which the wells are drilled, most wells are completed in a manner such that the outermost tubular member of the well extend upwardly from the ocean floor to a point above the surface of the water where a wellhead assembly or Christmas tree is mounted thereon for controlling the production of the well.

Wellheads extending above the surface of the water constitute a hazard to the navigation of vessels in the area as well as constituting a structure which is readily attacked by wave action, it being well known that the corrosive action of seawater and the air readily attack the normal steel platforms unless they are protected in a suitable manner by corrosive-resistant material. However, with the wellhead and/or casing head extending above the surface of the water, the flow controlling components of the wellhead may be readily adjusted by an operator working from a platform adjacent the wellhead structure above the surface of the water. Additionally, any workover or reconditioning operations carried out on the well may be readily accomplished as all of the portions of the wellhead structure which must be disassembled order to carry out these operations, are above the surface of the water where they may be reached by maintenance crews.

Recently, however, methods and apparatus have been developed for drilling and completing oil and gas wells in the ocean floor in a manner such that after completion of the well, the wellhead assembly, including various components, such as flow control valves, is positioned beneath the surface of the water, preferably on the ocean floor. These facilities are often positioned in water depths greater than the depth at which a diver can safely and readily work. it may therefore be seen that the adjustment of any of the wellhead components from time to time, or the re-entry of a well to carry out maintenance or reconditioning work, presents a considerable problem when the wellhead assembly is positioned below the sur face of the water.

It is therefore a puimary object of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus for manipulating equipment in the vicinity of, or components on, a wellhead assembly positioned below the surface of the water.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a remotely-controlled manipulator device adapted to move through the body of water and be temporarily secured to an underwater wellhead while being movable therearound for carrying out any of the various operations of setting, adjusting, connecting or the disconnecting of a wellhead assembly, components or associated equipment thereof.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a device adapted to be movably-positioned temporarily on a track adjacent an underwater wellhead, said device being provided with a rotatable object-engaging arm which is movable in any direction in a vertical or horizontal plane within the vicinity of the wellhead assembly.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a wellhead apparatus adapted to be positioned underwater for receiving on said apparatus and movable thereon a manipulator device adapted to engage the various components of the wellhead assembly.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus for remotely adjusting the flow of fluid from an underwater wellhead assembly from a remote location.



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Underwater MOBOT

See pdf

Dr. John W. Clark, Manager of the Nuclear Electronics Laboratory at Hughes Aircraft Corporation, headed the Mobot group.

See other Hughes' Mobot-related posts here.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1960 – SOLARIS – Mechanical Crab – Jack Green (American)

SOLARIS – Submerged Object Locating And Retrieving/Identification System is a vehicle built by Vitro Laboratories for the U. S. Navy.

It can be used down to 650 foot depths and is controlled by a surface vessel through a cable. A toggle action claw is attached to the underside of the vehicle. It is designed to clamp cylindrical objects such as nose cones, torpedoes and mines. The claw is designed to retrieve objects weighing up to 5000 pounds in water. The claw is hydraulically operated through a toggle linkage. The over-center locking action of the toggle linkage provides maximum clamping pressure while minimizing the possibility of accidental release. SOLARIS can be fitted with different claws for special tasks. A servo valve controls the hydraulic power for the claw. A fifteen horsepower electric motor drives a hydraulic pump, rated at 3000 psi, which supplies the power for all the equipment on the vehicle. A TV system is used for viewing the undersea environment.


WORKING MODEL in photo above shows propellers for maneuvering, claw for grasping, and octopus-like body that houses electric motor to power both. Prototype will descend 850 feet, far deeper than human divers; later versions of Solaris will go down into the ocean as deep as two-fifths of a mile.


PAINTING IN FOLDOUT AT RIGHT [above] depicts Solaris at work salvaging wrecked plane—one of its many possible missions. See reverse side of foldout [below] for Solaris' various components and how the huge robot will be controlled from operator's console on the surface.


Mechanical Crab to Search Ocean Depths [Source: POPULAR SCIENCE, JULY 1960]
With an arm 2,000 feet long, TV-camera eyes, and a claw that can clamp onto a 2 1/2-ton load, the giant robot Solaris is a treasure-hunter's dream come true
By Devon Francis
SOMETIME late this fall, a U.S. Navy boat in Puget Sound will drop overside, on a couple of cables, one of the strangest contraptions ever lowered to the ocean's depths. On its top will be a brace of propellers, at its middle a sphere, at one side a television camera flanked by lights, and on its bottom a claw.
The thing will be called Solaris. It will be the underwater treasure-hunter's dream come true.
Imagine sitting high and dry on the deck of a boat, and having at your command an arm more than 2,000 feet long to pick up whatever suited your fancy from the ocean floor —plus eyes to scan thousands of square yards of it.
Now under construction in Silver Spring, Md., for experimental torpedo recovery for the Navy, Solaris will be unmanned. In prototype, it is designed to descend to 650 feet, but it can be adapted to go down as far as two-fifths of a mile. That's 1,750 feet below the average safe working depth of a human diver.
Solaris is designed to do everything that a human diver can do, and more.
The propellers are for maneuvering. The sphere is the power unit. The TV camera gives underwater eyes to an operator aboard the launching ship. The claw is for retrieving anything that the operator wants on the ocean bottom—including sunken treasure.
Solaris (Submerged Object Locating and Retrieving/ Identification System) is versatile. It can go exploring, covering 1,400,000 square yards of ocean floor at a depth of 2,000 feet.
It can perform such prosaic tasks as inspecting channel bottoms, ship keels, bridge pilings, and submarine cables. It can clamp and bring to the surface objects weighing as much as 2 1/2 tons. It can place explosive charges, and then back off and detonate them.
One of its possible uses is recovery of pieces of rockets fired from Cape Canaveral and destroyed in flight because of deviation from course. Skin divers have to do this now.
The Vitro Corp., which is building Solaris to specifications outlined by Jack Green, project engineer at the Naval Torpedo Station, Keyport, Wash., knows it can perform all these duties because a preceding device already has demonstrated it. What might be called the daddy of Solaris was developed, also, for the Navy. Its missions are classified.
One of the two cables is the lifeline of the snoopy Solaris. This cable lets it down and pulls it up. Solaris' second cable is its nervous system. Through this, the operator topside issues commands for the thing to crawfish this way and that, to rise a bit or descend, to clamp onto a prize, to drive studs into steel plating, or to plant explosives.
The second cable also carries current for lights that illuminate the inky reaches of the deep, and it transmits the TV signals to a screen so the operator can see what he's doing.
Sitting at a console, the operator taps the second cable for information on heading, depth, height above bottom, propeller r.p.m., amount of illumination, and what Solaris' claws (or one of its substitute fitments) are up to.
That second cable, carrying the electrical lines, must be strong enough to take some tension, yet flexible enough to bend and twist while the vehicle is scrounging around on its boggle-eyed missions.
The sphere (a sort of octopus body inside Solaris' working ganglia) houses a 10-horsepower electric motor. It turns a hydraulic pump that supplies power not only for propulsion but also for the claw. To keep everything shipshape, the watertight sphere contains a leak detector and depth-measuring sonar.
How is works. To maneuver the vehicle, the operator has only to turn on the propellers and vary their speed. They are driven hydraulically through gearing that is essentially like an automobile differential.
The first cable is only a leash. Under the thrust provided by the propellers, Solaris strains against its hold. That's the secret of the depth control. The propellers' pitch can be varied to increase or decrease the thrust. Balancing off that thrust against the pull of the leash controls the height of Solaris above sea bottom.
The forces involved are the same as those in water skiing—with enough tension on the towing line, a skier planes on top of the water. When the tension drops the skier sinks.
The depth control is mostly automatic. The operator at the console on shipboard knows the topography of the ocean floor and at what depth he wants Solaris to operate. He turns a knob to get proper propeller thrust against cable tension.
Inside Solaris' sphere is a simple strain gauge to measure the pressure of the water. If the height isn't right, a signal travels back along the electrical cable to a servo motor on a winch that the leash-cable wraps around. The servo motor boosts or decreases tension on the leash-cable, as the situation demands.
But what if the console operator discovers on his TV screen that Solaris is on the brink of an ocean-floor trench that it must get into to do its job? The operator simply feeds a signal to the strain gauge that, in effect, reduces its sensitivity. The gauge telegraphs the motor winch, the cable tension is reduced, and Solaris drifts down into the trench.
Through the second cable also flow console commands for maneuvering right or left by changing the pitch on one propeller or the other.
It was Vitro's success in designing the second cable that led to the idea for Solaris. The company produced a torpedo for the Navy that trailed a long control cable behind it when it was shot from its tube. Directions fed through the cable to the torpedo's steering mechanism guided it precisely to its target. Solaris was a logical adaptation.
The Vitro people see no end of usefulness to Solaris. As a seeing-eye robot below the waves, it could discover a new shrimp bed, examine a faulty ship's propeller, or—who knows?—even retrieve long-sunken chests of Spanish doubloons.


Depth hidden ocean secrets may someday be an "open book" to scientists through further development of machines that are already performing scores of impressive underwater functions……..

Shown on the cover and on page 44 of this issue of S&M is the Vitro Corporation's SOLARIS, a claw-equipped robot, at work recovering a torpedo at a depth of 1620 feet.

Solaris has propellers that are driven at a constant speed of 420 rpm. By varying the pitch of the propeller blades, ship-board operators can adjust the thrust of each propeller from 250 pounds positive to 200 pounds negative. It has a maximum forward speed of about three mph after overcoming the drag of its lengthy connecting cables.



Source: Holland Evening Sentinel 18 July, 1960
MECHANICAL CRAB — An extremely facile device to retrieve spent torpedoes, small missiles and other metallic debris from the ocean floor is being perfected for the government by a Washington scientific laboratory.
Named the "Solaris," the device weighs 500 pounds, but can lift objects weighing up to three and one-half tons from the ocean floor. Its key piece of equipment is a television camera that enables operators on surface ships to "see" what lies in front of the device as it traverses the ocean floor at about 1 1/2 knots.
Solaris is equipped with a variety of "claws" for holding objects. It can pick up a spent torpedo, a missile casing or underwater pipes. It can also plant explosives and even fire a connecting stud into an unwieldy object so a cable can be attached.
An electro-magnet can be attached for gathering scrap metal and there is a grapple for netting. There are brilliant lamps that can be used  to chart the ocean floor or help inspect underwater operations.
Work on the device has cost the government many thousands of dollars, but it is expected to pay for itself many times over.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1958 – RUM – Remote Underwater Manipulator – Victor Anderson (American)


RUM – Remote Underwater Manipulator

Press Release: U.S. Navy reveals new remote control vehicle for exploring ocean bottom.: A unique remote control undersea vehicle for exploring and conducting scientific studies of the ocean bottom for prolonged periods at great depths has been developed for the Office of Naval Research. The new vehicle was demonstrated for the Press off the shore of La Jolla, California, May 16. 1960. The vehicle is essentially a tank equipped with a long jointed manipulator arm and hand together with specially devised underwater television cameras which serve as the eyes of the vehicle's operator on shore. The development of the Remote Underwater Manipulator was directed by Dr. Victor Anderson of the Marine Physical laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California at La Jolla for use in co-operation with the Hudson Laboratory of Columbia University. The goal of the Navy R.U.M. developments is to have available a vehicle capable of performing controlled work functions is oceanographic research. This includes observation of the sea floor, the collection of samples and specimens and the assembly and installation of deep bottom-mounted instrumentation in the ocean. R.U.M. (Remote Underwater Manipulator) can operate at depths down to 20,000 feet, maintained a speed of 3 miles per hour where level bottom soil conditions permit. It can manoeuvre and operate on grades of 60 percent and is capable of climbing a vertical obstacle 12 inches in height. It is seen here returning from ocean floor during tests.

Source: SIO Reference 60-26
Victor C. Anderson, University of California, La Jolla Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography San Diego 52, California
An experimental Remote Underwater Manipulator constructed at the Marine Physical Laboratory is described. Features of the design which permit operation at deep submergence in the ocean over 5 miles of small coaxial cable are discussed. Pertinent electronic circuits are shown and their general operation outlined.
In November of 1958 the Marine Physical Laboratory undertook the construction of an experimental Remote Underwater Manipulator (RUM) as a part of a task, under Contract Nonr 2216 with the Office of Naval Research. It was felt that by the adoption of a suitable design philosophy such a device, capable of operating at great depths, could be built utilizing, to a large extent, standard commercial components. Operating from a fixed installation over a length of several miles of control cable, the RUM would permit a significant increase in underwater installation work capability and a reduction of the required complexity of bottom-mounted oceanographic instrumentation.
The first tests of the MPL RUM were carried out in the San Diego Bay in May of 1959. The first ocean test was made on 5 May 1960.
This initial report covers the RUM design and construction in a manner which will outline the problems arising during its construction and describe their solution as well as present the philosophy followed in the design.






The manipulator for the MPL RUM was obtained from General Mills as a complete assembly ready for installation in the rear compartment. As may be seen in Figure 20 it consists of a model 500 manipulator arm mounted on the end of an articulating boom which has three degrees of freedom: base rotation, lower boom elevation and elbow elevation between lower and upper boom. The manipulator itself has the standard set of 5 motions: shoulder rotation, shoulder pivot, elbow pivot, wrist rotate and hand grip. These functions, combined with power on-off, fast-slow and forward-reverse control, require 18 of the off-on control channels. The manipulator capabilities are as follows:
Gross lifting capability with hook . . .     1500 lbs at 10 ft
Maximum outreach . . .                        15 ft
Manipulator lifting capability . . .            500 lbs
Wrist torque . . .                                  100 ft -lbs
Hand closing force . . .                         100 lbs
The manipulator arm itself is powered by dc motors while the boom operates from a hydraulic system position servo-coupled to dc control motors.
Hull Construction
The MPL RUM has been built on the basic hull and track assembly of an M-50 self-propelled rifle or "Ontos," provided for this purpose. The Ontos was stripped and reworked to provide four compartments as shown in Figure 9 above.







Interesting in the above artist's conception is the adaption of a helicopter device to allow RUM to swim over rough spots.

Source: Popular Mechanics, December 1960.



Underwater robot to explore ocean floor
Console has controls and four TV screens.
Control van is linked to RUM by cable.

The Navy has added a robot hand, sonar, and four television cameras to a rebuilt Marine tank. RUM—for Remote Underwater Manipulator—is a sort of poor man's Solaris [PS, July]. Cost of the project: $250,000. The interior of the tank has been sealed against water and filled with oil in which two 71/2-hp. electric motors run immersed: one to move each of the two tracks.
The vehicle is linked to a mobile van on shore by a coaxial cable long enough to permit operation five miles out and 20,000 feet under the sea. The cable carries power to the motors, TV cameras, mercury-vapor lamps that light the deeps for the cameras, telemetering channels, and a mechanical hand that can pick up objects ranging from a piece of kelp to a forecastle section.
Designs exist for a similar vehicle of aluminum. Future RUMs would weigh several thousand pounds less, says the Navy, and would be more reliable. Source: Popular Science, Aug, 1960.



The Remote Underwater Manipulator (RUM) was first intended to work alone, crawling about on the sea floor at depths down to 6,000 meters to gather objects and samples, to take photographs, and to install deep-sea instruments. Victor C. Anderson began assembling it in 1958, starting with a Marine Corps self-propelled rifle carrier; to this he added a boom and a steel claw that could be pivoted in any direction out to about five meters to pick up objects. The gasoline engine was replaced with a pair of heavy electric motors in an oil-filled compartment. Sonar was installed, and a powerful light and four television cameras for sea-floor surveillance from a portable shore station (actually a bus). Power for RUM and sensor signals were provided by way of a coaxial cable 8,000 meters long. Early tests in shallow water were only moderately successful, and RUM was set aside for other projects. Source: here.



Selection of 15 images of RUM from University of Southern California. Libraries.

Title:     Remote underwater manipulation test (United States Navy), 1960-05-16.
Description:   Remote underwater manipulation test (United States Navy). May 16 1960. Howard Humphrey; Howard McQueen; Doctor Victor Anderson (project director); Bill Clay.; Caption slip reads: "Photographer: Snow. Date: 1960-05-16. Reporter: Henley. Assignment: RUM. Series of pictures of RUM going out to sea until it is completely submerged. Arm of RUM in sand after it broke down. Howard Humphrey and Howard McQueen, with hat, putting on arm in control van. Dr. Victor Anderson, project director; Bill Clay, closest to camera. Dr. Victor Anderson standing beside RUM on beach".
Photographer:     Snow






Selected images of RUM from Time-Life Collection. Photographer is Ralph Crane. 1960.


Dr. Victor Anderson.

A view of the Navy's remote underwater m





ORB and RUM are a pair of MPL vehicles that often work as a team. By December 1967, ORB (Ocean Research Buoy) had been developed as a platform for suspending equipment and particularly as a service vehicle for RUM. ORB is a barge 45 feet by 65 feet with a large center well through which the ten-ton RUM is operated by means of a constant-tension winch. It has two laboratories, a galley and messhall, and sleeping quarters for twelve people. “Loading RUM is a somewhat unconventional operation,” its designers wrote. “RUM is first lowered to the bottom of the bay by a crane. Then ORB is moved to a position over RUM, divers attach the strain cable, and RUM is lifted up through the well doors.” Unconventional or not, it does work. RUM has been used for taking cores at depths down to 1,900 meters, for measurements of sediment properties in place, for underwater photography, for recovering equipment at depths down to 1,260 meters, and for sampling deep-sea biological communities. It has the advantage of being able to stay on the sea floor at work much longer than manned submersibles. On one of its earliest sea trials, in 1970, RUM placed two small sonar reflectors on the sea floor, crawled away from them, and returned to find and retrieve them. It also found a third sea-floor object:  … a can of a well-known brand of stewed tomatoes. … The can was found to be the dwelling of a small and very frightened octopus. We feel [said RUM’s inventors] that this is one of the first times that a mobile biological specimen has been selectively retrieved by a remotely controlled manipulator as well as record of the first sea-going anti-pollution effort by such a unit.

Anderson also developed the Benthic Laboratory, first used as a communications center for Sealab II in 1965. The laboratory housed electronic equipment. Source: here.


RUM (Remote Underwater Manipulator) – This series of seafloor work vehicles included RUM II, a remotely controlled, tracked vehicle which was developed under the sponsorship of the Office of Naval Research at the Marine Physical Laboratory for use as a research tool in sea floor technology experiments, and to establish design criteria for future sea floor technology systems. RUM III, which combines seafloor search and work capabilities, is in the development phase.
RUM II provided detailed information on vehicle trafficability, remote manipulation, navigation, cable telemetry systems, effect of ambient pressure on electronics, and environmental and mechanical design considerations. Design depth for the vehicle is 2,400 meters. Extensive operations have been carried out in a variety of locations of diverse bottom characteristics within 120 km radius from San Diego. Depth of operations has ranged from 30 to 1800 meters. Operational tasks carried out on the sea floor have included search and recovery, implantment of instruments, biological studies, vehicle trafficability studies, navigation exercises, collection of samples, and the measurement of the engineering properties of sea floor sediments. During operations, RUM was launched through the well on ORB and lowered to the sea floor. A pair of divers were used in the launch and recovery of the vehicle to connect and disconnect snubbing cables. Electrical power, telemetry for control and instrumentation, and signals for sonar, navigation aids and television were transmitted over the single coaxial umbilical cable connecting the RUM to ORB.
The vehicle was propelled by two independently controlled reversible 15.6 KW direct current motors, one driving each track. Other equipment included three television cameras, ten 500-watt quartz iodide lights, two 600-watt mercury vapor lights, color movie and still cameras, an obstacle avoidance scanning sonar with a 25-meter range, a high resolution search sonar with a 200-meter range, up- and down-looking depth sounders, a magnetic compass, listening hydrophones, acoustic transponder navigation system and a manipulator capable of exerting 22 kg of force in any direction.

rum-2-Deep-Sea Sediments-x640

rum-3-Deep-Sea Sediments-x640

rum-4-Deep-Sea Sediments-x640

ORB (Oceanographic Research Buoy) – ORB, a 21 x 14 meter rectangular shaped vessel displacing approximately 330 tons, was developed by the Marine Physical Laboratory to serve projects at the laboratory which require the launch, retrieval, implantation or handling of large equipment or systems in the open ocean. In contrast to FLIP, ORB is designed to follow the sea surface as closely as possible, in order to simplify the task of placing and retrieving large objects in the ocean. The vessel has a center well of 9- by 6-meter area which can be opened to permit the lowering of equipment through it, using a cable-tensioning system to minimize vertical motions. The well doors when closed provide a dry work space and will safely support a weight of 12,000 kg. Loads up to 12 tons can be lowered to a maximum depth of 2,000 meters. ORB is 8 meters high from keel to upper deck. It has no means of self propulsion and must be towed to and from operating areas. In addition to laboratory work spaces and machinery space, ORB is equipped with complete living facilities for 20 people including five crew members.
ORB, during her first ten years of operation in support of over a dozen different projects, has been moored at over 20 sites ranging up to 400 km off the southern California coast and at depths from 30 to over 4,000 meters.

There is a RUM III but I have no image of it.


Publication number    US3168261
Publication date    2 Feb 1965
Filing date    29 Mar 1963
Inventor:    William H. Hainer
Original Assignee    General Mills Inc

This invention relates to a cable winding mechanism, and more particularly to an apparatus for use on a remotely controlled vehicle, such as an underwater reconnaissance vehicle, to automatically reel in or pay out a control or power cable for the vehicle as it travels a course.

It is a general object of the present invention to provide such a cable winding mechanism which is relatively simple and compact, which performs reliably, which, when reeling cable in, properly winds the cable in even multiple layers upon a spool or drum, and, when paying out cable, properly dispenses the cable from said drum, and which, in reeling in and paying out cable, does so independently of the travel of the vehicle, by making the winding action of the drum responsive to tension on the cable.

In conjunction with this above-mentioned object is the further object of providing such a cable winding mechanism especially adapted for use in a remotely controlled underwater reconnaissance vehicle that is designed to travel over rough terrain of the ocean floor at relatively great depths (i.e. 500 feet or more) and be able to follow a relatively complex course over such terrain.

It is believed a clearer understanding of the apparatus to which the present invention relates, and of the problems which the invention purports to alleviate will be obtained by first describing briefly an underwater vehicle of the type for which the present invention is especially adapted and the problems in its operation.

Such a vehicle has a chassis which rests on a pair of tracks by which the vehicle is able to propel itself along the ocean floor. Pivotally connected to the chassis are a set of upstanding struts the upper ends :of which are pivotally connected to a set of tanks which impart a lifting or buoying force to the vehicle. By properly moving these tanks by means of the supporting struts, the vehicles center of buoyancy is placed over its center of gravity, and the entire vehicle is better able to be stabilized [on its tracks so that it can travel over steeply sloped surfaces. Also, both the chassis and the tanks are provided with propellers to power the vehicle above the ocean floor, submarine fashion, in the event that it is desired to pass over a crevasse or other obstacle.

The vehicle is both controlled and powered electrically, this being accomplished by an electric cable leading from the vehicle to a suitable power and control source, such as a surface ship or possibly a shore station. While the vehicle, during a reconnaissance mission, may be following a maze-like course over the ocean floor, the cable will sometimes slide sideways over the ocean floor or become snagged on obstructions or vegetation. Since the cable has a total length of perhaps five miles, it may become strung out over the ocean floor along a rather unpredictable and complex path, quite different from that which the vehicle has travelled. Thus, there arise particular problems in reeling in the cable under these conditions, among such problems being that of guarding against the vehicle itself cutting across and severing the cable. it is for effective operations under conditions such as these that my invention purports to provide a practical cable winding apparatus.

The General Mills Model 150 Manipulator Arm


The General Mills' Model 150 Manipulator. See also General Mills technology described here.


Harold "Bud" Froehlich

The dream of building a manned deep ocean research submersible first started to move toward reality on February 29, 1956. Allyn Vine of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) attended a symposium in Washington, where participants drafted a resolution that the U.S. develop a national program for manned undersea vehicles. From this beginning the community eventually obtained the Trieste bathyscaphe, but it was quite large and not very maneuverable – a better craft was needed.

In 1960, Charles Momsen, head of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), petitioned for scientists to rent a submersible with ONR funds, and found WHOI investigators interested. In the spring of 1962, after unsuccessful negotiations with various submersible builders to rent a sub, Vine and others at Woods Hole went and requested bids to buy a small submersible based on drawings made by Bud Froehlich for a vehicle he called the Seapup. General Mills won the bid for $472,517 for an unnamed 6,000-foot submersible. Source: here.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1969 – NR-1 Submersible – General Dynamics (American)


1969 – NR-1 Submersible by General Dynamics.


Early design sketch of the NR-1 sub.


Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat
Laid down: 10 June 1967
Launched: 25 January 1969

Source: Wikipedia
NR-1 is able to land on the seafloor on a pair of retractable wheels and can lift heavy objects with a manipulator arm system. NR-1's major strength, however, is the ability to provide a stable platform and abundant electric power for surveillance missions of two weeks or longer.

The custom-built, one-of-a-kind vessel carried no weapons, measured just 140 ft and travelled at just four knots, but held ten men for up to a month at a time.

It was a pet project of Admiral Hyman Rickover, the 'father of the nuclear Navy', and contained a custom-built mini nuclear reactor which powered it as deep as 3,000 feet.

Once on the sea bed, it had wheels and lights to explore the ocean floor.

It was mainly a research sub, but also performed Cold War military missions which remain highly classified.

See also Simon Lake's 1931 "Explorer"  as an earlier example of a submersible on wheels!

See other early Underwater Robots here.