Posts Tagged ‘American’

1978-80 – RCV-150 ROV – Arthur B. Billet (American)


1982 – RCV-150 Remote Controlled Vehicle System by Arthur B. Billet, principal engineer, Hydro Products, Inc., a Tetra Tech Co., wholly owned by Honeywell.




Image Source: here.


Technician checks out the RCV-150, Hydro Product’s largest deep-diving robot vehicle, one of the increasing number of such remote-controlled devices that are rapidly replacing human divers for many underwater tasks. (MUST PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles Times Photo by Dave Gatley) Illustrates RCV, by Barbara Bry (Times), moved Monday, July 19. (c) 1982, Los Angeles Times.


The big brother of the RCV -225, the RCV-150 was developed as a highly maneuverable, light-work capable ROV. This vehicle, in addition to being a flying eyeball, has a four function manipulator capability including both a rotary saw, pinching blade and grabber jaw. The RCV-150 has recently been fitted with a second four function arm extending the work capabilities to much more extensive and complex tasks.




Figure 9 shows the manipulator assembly. The manipulator is a five-function work arm normally stowed inside the lower framework in the vehicle. A rotary actuator at a “shoulder” joint allows for stow and unstow motion of the arm. An actuator at the “wrist” allows grabber jaws to pivot in a 245-degree arc. The jaws are opened and closed by a linear piston actuator. A pinching blade, capable of cutting 3/4 inch polypropylene line, is actuated simultaneously with the jaws.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1985 – Direct Link Prehensor (DLP) – John W. Jameson (American)


1985 – Direct Link Prehensor (DLP) by John W. Jameson.

The project stalled in 1986. Originally designed for astronaut hard suits, it was later licensed to Nuytco for its atmospheric diving systems, or ADS, particularly the then new Exosuit.



The Prehensor is a manipulator that matches the dexterity of a gloved human hand. External ‘fingers’ mimic the exact movements of the inside ‘master’ hand and provide full, 100% reflexive index-ability of the external thumb, in concert with the number of other digits employed. In addition, the outside ‘slave hand’ provides directly proportional sensory feedback of pressure, weight, etc., to the inside master hand (yours!).

The unique capabilities of the Prehensor were developed specifically with the Nuytco ADS ‘Exosuit’ in mind, but the system can easily replace existing simple jaw-style manipulators for use on ADS units. An electronically-controlled version is under development for use on remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s) and deep submersibles. There also has been discussion with the national space agencies of several countries on the use of the ‘Prehensor’ as a possible alternative to the conventional space-suit gloves.





Mechanical prehensor

Publication number US4984951 A
Publication type Grant
Application number US 07/412,540
Publication date 15 Jan 1991
Filing date 22 Sep 1989
Priority date 20 Jan 1988
Fee status Lapsed
Inventor John W. Jameson
Original Assignee The Board Of Trustees Of The Leland Stanford Junior University

The patent was later licensed to Nuytco Research Ltd. around 1990.

A generally anthropomorphic prehensor having at least two mechanical finger apparatus which interface directly with an object being grasped by apparatus of mechanical linking and control mechanisms operatively connected to the operator's fingers. Each mechanical finger has at least two finger links adjacent one another, each finger link independently rotatable about parallel axes in a plane of movement in response to movements of the corresponding phalanges of the operator's fingers. The mechanical prehensor is particularly useful in hostile or hazardous environments such as outer space, underwater, nuclear reactor sites or other hazardous environments, since the mechanical finger means are external to the operator's hand and may be constructed from suitable materials which are unreactive with the hostile environment, while the operator's hand and mechanical linking and control components may be sealed from the hazardous environment by means of a suitable protective shroud.

Manipulation means resembling crude pincers have been used in connection with diving suits for deep sea operations. The "Jim Suit", manufactured by UMEL of Farnborough, England, for example, has rudimentary external pincers for grasping which are mechanically actuated by hand movements, and it provides a gas-tight shroud around control mechanisms manipulable by the operator's hand. The pincers are claw-like, having two opposed finger means rotatable about a single axis in generally the same plane of movement. Mechanically actuated pincers of this type have some utility in grasping objects in hostile environments, but they achieve only a clamping-type grasp, and thus they provide limited external dexterity and manipulation.

Space suits developed for extra-vehicular activities in outer space typically have gloves for covering the hands of the space explorer. Due to pressurization inside the space suit and gloves, however, the gloves become very stiff during extra-vehicular activities, resulting in limited external dexterity and excessive hand fatigue.

Robotic manipulation devices having a plurality of finger means simulating human finger motions are currently being developed which may have some application in hostile environments. Robotic manipulation devices having multiple fingers capable of executing multiple degree of freedom movements are typically controlled electronically and require substantial amounts of energy for operation. While these types of robotic manipulation devices provide a high degree of external dexterity, the energy required for operation and the bulk of the control mechanisms render them impractical for use in many hostile environments.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic prehensor having external finger means mechanically controllable by movements of the operator's fingers.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic mechanical prehensor providing enhanced dexterity in hazardous environments which operates in response to movements of the operator's fingers and has no supplemental energy requirements.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a hand-powered mechanical prehensor which significantly reduces operator hand fatigue and increases operator safety and dexterity in hostile environments. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a prehensor having at least two external mechanical finger means, each mechanical finger means capable of selectively executing multiple motions in a plane of motion, thus providing enhanced mechanical fingertip prehension and the ability to grasp and manipulate objects in a hostile environment. It is still another object of the present invention to provide a generally anthropomorphic prehensor having external finger means mechanically actuated by movements of the operator's fingers which provides smooth, accurate, sensitive mechanical finger control, and which is reliable and simple to operate.






Selected stills from the above video clip.





With the shroud completed the DLP was ready to place on the spacesuit for testing. But there was a problem. It turned out that not enough attention was given to the ability of extracting the fingers from the control rings for doffing the DLP, and it was never tested with a suit. The Challenger accident [1986] curtailed the project before this could be corrected.

Trivia: John W. Jameson is the same person who designed and built the amazing Walking Gyro!

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1981 – “Deep Rover” Submersible – Graham Hawkes (British/American)


1981 – "Deep Rover" Submersible.

See 7:10 into the Video.




Dec84-deep-rover-2-Popular Science-x640

Top: Dr. Sylvia Earle. Bottom: Graham Hawkes.

Extract from Popular Science, Dec 1984.

An acrylic-bubble undersea habitat called Deep Rover will take oceanographers and oil-rig technicians to depths of 3,200 feet, where they'll work at sea-level pressure—in near-living-room comfort. The vessel "flies" like an underwater helicopter and has a set of manipulators that can lift 200 pounds apiece—or cradle an egg.

Though Deep Rover is expected to find much of its work in offshore oil fields, it was a marine biologist, Dr. Sylvia Earle, the noted oceanographic curator of the California Academy of Sciences, who planted the idea in Hawkes's mind. Three years ago she challenged him with a question: "Why can't we dive in comfort to the bottom of the ocean?" Having logged more than 4,500 hours underwater, she had the right—indeed, the need—to know. Some time later Hawkes, Earle, and Phillip Nuytten (president of Can-Dive, a Canadian company that furnishes diving support for offshore oil fields) met for dinner in Seattle. Hawkes, responding to Earle's scientific and Nuytten's commercial inputs, produced an elegant napkin sketch of the plans for Deep Rover.

MANIPS by By PETER BRITTON, Popular Science, Dec 1984.

"Manips": the human connection
Graham Hawkes describes his work as "simplicity through complexity." Deep Rover's elegant manipulators reflect that philosophy. The official name for them is the Sensory Manipulative System. Hawkes calls them the "manips."
Their object is to extend the pilot's reach and use his unmatchable combination of intelligence, experience, depth perception; and eye-hand coordination. "We rely on the human brain rather than a computer to operate the system," says Hawkes. "If the pilot's hand is trembling, the manip will tremble in sympathy, down to about five cycles per second," he adds. The manipulators are of such dexterity and response that NASA is considering them, along with a Deep Rover-like vehicle, for excursions and work from the space shuttle.
Made of aluminum, stainless steel, and graphite-loaded nylon, the modular manipulators can vary in length from 5.6 to 7.5 feet and weigh up to 150 pounds. Each carries a light and a low-profile television camera.

Dec84-deep-rover-3-Popular Science-x640
An analogy with the human arm and hand is useful in grasping the concept of degrees of freedom, and hence what the manipulators can do. An extended arm can (A) move up and down and (B) move from side to side. It can (C) bend at the elbow. The wrist can (D) move up and down, (E) move from side to side, and (F) rotate. And the hand can (G) open and close.
The complementary manipulator motions are activated through the handgrip by moving it backward and forward (resulting in action A), side to side (B), and by rotating it (C). A thumb switch on top is moved up and down (0) and side to side (E) to control the wrist. Two buttons rotate the wrist clockwise or counterclockwise (F), and a trigger opens and closes the "hand" (G).
The four-function "hands" each have two large jaws and two tips. When the serrated edges of the large jaws touch an object and close on it, the force is instantly transferred to the tips, which then also close. When a four-point contact is achieved, a steady grip
The manips employ five elements of sense (some details of which are proprietary): sight, motion, force, sound, and touch. For the manips the tactile sense is the most important. But it is not touch as we know it.
Hawkes explains: "Robots generally are designed to recreate a sense of touch by sensing remotely in the manipulator and conveying that sense to the pilot through electrical readouts. But the readouts mean nothing by themselves and must be translated. What we do is translate the tactile sense into an audio signal and feed it to the pilot through his ears.
"We're using accelerometers, and we get a sense that is analogous to the sound that comes from scraping a brick with a fork. However, we pick up not sound but accelerations in the jaw tips—vibrations, if you like."
In operation, a pilot could probe below the mud line with the manips and correctly identify whatever material he "touched," be it plastic, metal, wood, or concrete, through the sound from the cockpit speakers. A trainee, according to Hawkes, can learn this new "language" in about two hours.
This function operates in real time, and Hawkes designed the manipulators to respond quickly—through a combination of electronics and hydraulics—so that the pilot can take full advantage of it. When the pilot commands a manip through the handgrip, he activates a motion switch built into the controller. An electrical signal goes from the controller to a power amplifier, which puts out an electrical signal that drives an actuator outside the hull. There is one actuator for every function on each manipulator.
The actuator converts the electric signal to hydraulic power through a gearbox and a lin-ear/rotary ball-bearing unit, which causes the displacement of a piston. This forces hydraulic fluid out of the actuator and into the manipulator, where a joint is moved—or a jaw is clenched. Withdrawal of the fluid causes a motion in the opposite direction.

Related Patents.

Electromechanical manipulator assembly
Publication number    US5000649 A
Publication date    19 Mar 1991
Filing date    22 Aug 1986
Priority date    15 Feb 1983
Inventors    Graham S. Hawkes
Original Assignee    Deep Ocean Engineering Incorporated


This is a continuation of application Ser. No. 466,606, filed Feb. 15, 1983, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,607,798.

The present invention relates, in general, to remotely-operated, manipulative devices and relates, more particularly, to underwater or sub-sea, remotely-controlled, powered manipulator arms.

In recent years the use of manned and unmanned underwater apparatus to explore and develop natural resources has increased dramatically. In the petroleum industry, for example, off-shore drilling has required both manned apparatus (submersibles) and unmanned underwater apparatus (robotic devices) which are capable of performing a wide variety of manipulative tasks. Typically such apparatus includes one or more remotely operated, powered arms which have a terminal device, such as claws, pincers or jaws, which are analogous to a human hand. The manipulator arms are usually jointed or have several axes of movement and may be controlled in a preprogrammed manner or by a remotely-operated input device. Such manipulator assemblies are exposed to very adverse environmental conditions, particularly when operated in bodies of salt water at substantial depths, which is the normal operating environment for most off-shore oil exploration and recovery equipment.

Prior underwater, electromechanical manipulator apparatus have typically employed a D.C. motor coupled to a hydraulic pump as the primary power for actuation or moving of the arm assemblies. The hydraulic pumps are coupled to a hydraulic circuit employing solenoid valves to control displacement of the manipulator arms and operation of the claws or jaws on the end of the arms.

If these prior art solenoid-based manipulator systems are relatively simple, the operating characteristics have been found to be poor. The smoothness and dexterity of movement with Which the arm and claws can be manipulated are not satisfactory for many applications. In order to attempt to have a smoothly operating solenoid valve- based system, the valving and pump controls can be made very complex, but the resulting complexity substantially increases cost and the incidence of breakdown.

Another prior art approach to underwater manipulative assemblies is to employ a D.C. motor-feedback servo amplifier system in which the motor directly drives the mechanical elements in the arm. Such a direct coupling of the D.C. motor to the mechanical manipulator elements has been found to require extremely close tolerances with attendant undesirable cost. Moreover, there are substantial shock loading problems in the gearboxes of such systems.

A remotely operated, underwater manipulator assembly should be capable of smooth motion over a wide speed range. Thus it should be able to move uniformly and smoothly at low speeds for precise work and smoothly at high speeds for rapid arm positioning. Underwater manipulator assemblies also should be able to exert a variable force at any of the speeds in its range of operating speeds. Moreover, a remotely operated underwater manipulator arm or assembly should have the capability of simultaneous and cooperative motion in two or more directions to give full freedom of movement of the terminal device or gripping jaws. The combination of smooth functioning over a wide speed range, variable force throughout the range, and multidirectional movement provides an underwater manipulator arm assembly which begins to closely approximate the motion and dexterity of a human arm and hand.



Additional related patents:

Publication number    US4471207 A
Apparatus and method for providing useful audio feedback to operators of remotely controlled manipulators

Publication number    US4655673 A
Apparatus and method for providing useful tactile feedback to operators of remotely controlled manipulators


See other early Underwater Robots here.

1978 – “Mantis” Submersible – Graham Hawkes (British)


1978 – "Mantis" Submersible.


Sylvia Earle and Graham Hawkes.

Mantis, built by OSEL, U.K., designed by Graham Hawkes is the latest [c1978] development in the tethered submarine field. It is fitted with eight or ten electric thrusters and has two seawater hydraulically operated manipulators. The Mantis was built in 1978 and has been used for rig inspection and debri clearance operations.




Mantis Submersible-x640


See other early Underwater Robots here.

1970c – ANTHRO ROV – Will Forman (American)

anthro-pm-nov73 - copy-x640

TV eye for underwater work A new device for underwater inspection work is Anthro, a remotely controlled submersible with a 20-inch-diameter plastic bubble for a hull. A television display and propulsion controls-on board ship or on dry land-are connected to the vehicle by an umbilical. Anthro's TV camera is electronically "slaved" to the operator's head. As he moves his head, the scene he views is moving in exact synchronization. Headphones provide binaural sound-transmitted from hydrophones aboard Anthro-as an additional aid in orienting the vehicle. (If Anthro bumps into anything, the bump is heard topside.) Movement of Anthro-forward, reverse, up and down-is by hand controls. Device was developed by Hydro Products, San Diego. Source: Popular Mechanics, Nov 1973.

See ANTHRO – 24:24 into the clip.


Various stills from the above video showing duplicated (anthropomorphic) head movement.


anthro-2-x640 anthro-3-x640 anthro-4-x640 anthro-7-x640 anthro-8-x640 anthro-9-x640

Project headed by Willis "Will" R. Forman (seen in video above with "Deep View" submersible).


Source: Remotely Operated Vehicles,  by R. Frank Busby Associates, Inc., August 1979.

From 1958 through 1974 the U.S. Navy constructed and funded development of eight more ROVs. Three of these were additions and replacements for the original CURV, the others were primarily testbed vehicles for advancement in technology, two such vehicles were TORTUGA (not shown) and ANTHRO built by Hydro Products, San Diego, California.

The design goal of TORTUGA was to produce a small (relative to CURV) maneuverable underwater video system designed for close examination of normally inaccessible underwater areas. Although its military application is not publicly reported, TORTUGA' s shape, size and mode of operation indicates a potential for deployment from a submarine. Several experimental versions of TORTUGA were built, the first units relied on water jets for propulsion, later vehicles used propellers to increase maneuvering and responsiveness.

The ANTHRO (anthromorphic) vehicle was a follow-on to TORTUGA which was also constructed by Hydro Products with U.S. Navy funding. ANTHRO was developed to investigate a concept wherein normal human perception would be preserved in the vehicle. The technique employed was referred to as "head coupled" video presentation and involved slaving the vehicle and/or camera orientation to the operator's head attitude. The video presentation was mounted on, and moved with, the operator's head. Consequently, the scene being viewed moved in exact synchronization with the operator's head movement, and his memory recorded the relative location of all objects in the field of view. Binaural audio inputs (obtained from a pair of hydrophones on the vehicle) were also continuously provided to investigate the feasibility of detecting and localizing underwater objects either by their own self-generated sound or by reflected sound generated from the vehicle.

The ANTHRO operator's control station included an instrumented swivel chair and a helmet containing a television display (a 5 inch TV screen), roll, pitch and azimuth sensors and dual headphones. Manned controls for vehicle maneuvering, depth functions and television camera remote focus were provided at the operator's right hand. Vehicle depth was controlled by servo-controlled vertical thrusters which automatically maintained a desired depth.

SCAT (Submersible Cable-Activated Teleoperator) was a U.S. Navy-built follow-on to ANTHRO and served as a test-bed demonstration vehicle for the purpose of evaluating head-coupled television and three-dimensional television display.

The Institute of Oceanology, USSR, capitalizing on experiences with the 4,000m CRAB-4000 in 1971, developed the MANTA vehicle. The operational theory behind MANTA was that it is practically impossible for a man to successfully operate a moving system without a proper feedback which acts upon the whole complex of sensors within his central nervous system (Mikhaltsev, 1973). A group of tenso-sensors was mounted on MANTA and a special servo-controlled, hydraulically-driven operator's chair which closed the feedback circuit, was constructed. The chair repeated all the roll and pitch movements of the underwater vehicle and allowed the operator to feel MANTA' s maneuvering. Further sophistication was added by incorporating the feedback provided by the manipulator's tenso-sensors into a simple computer which gave the preprogrammed computer the ability to command the manipulator system. As of 1973 the preprogramming was fulfilled, but only under laboratory conditions.

Anthropomorphic Vehicle System

by Robert L. Hittleman, Manager, Systems Division
Oceanographic Engineering Company, An affiliate of Dillingham Corporation, and
Will Forman, Submersible Project Manager at Naval Undersea Research & Development Center

Published in: Underwater Photo-Optical Instrumentation Applications III by Seibert Q. Duntley; Joe J. Lones; H. S. Weisbrod,  Honolulu | January 01, 1971.

The efficient performance of any task in the hostile underwater environment requires that due care be exercised in the design of the man-machine interface to take full advantage of the enormous potential available in the human mechanism. In particular, it was believed that significant benefits could be realized if the human brain was introduced as an integrally functioning element of an under-water remote controlled vehicle system.
Dillingham personnel, working in close coordination with Dr. McLean and Will Forman of the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center, San Diego, investigated a concept wherein normal human perception would be preserved in the design of a remote controlled, miniature, unmanned submersible. The technique involved coupling the vehicle operator's head motion and direction to that of the vehicle and its television camera. A pair of hydrophones on the vehicle provides a binaural listening capability. The objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of directing underwater systems using acoustic and visual sensors which acquire information in the same manner as does the "human mechanism"–thus giving rise to the Anthropomorphic identification; that is, a machine system designed with human characteristics In this system, the operator's brain functions as a neurological computer and is a functional element of the control and data processing system. Unnatural mental coordinate-transformation type operations inherent in previous man-machine interface designs would thus be eliminated.
System Design
The system was designed with the criteria of simplicity and low cost foremost; in order that this experimental, feasibility demonstration model be fabricated inexpensively and in the shortest time period possible. Maximum use of off-the-shelf equipment was made, and hard wiring, rather than printed circuit boards were used, in recognition of the one-of-a-kind nature of the development program. This latter feature also allowed one to incorporate design changes with relative ease.

The total system is shown in Figure 1, and consists of:
.    a submersible vehicle and tether cable,
.    an operator's control station, and
.    an electronics console.
The vehicle has a 20" diameter, transparent plastic sphere.

Possibly related patent.


Submersible visual simulator for remotely piloted systems

Publication number    US3916094 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    28 Oct 1975
Filing date    21 Jun 1974
Inventors    Frederick A Marrone
Original Assignee    US Navy

ABSTRACT A visual simulator for obtaining the illusion of control presence in a remotely controlled vehicle comprises two television camera systems which are coupled to a cathode ray tube display carried by the head gear of the operator of the remote controlled vehicle. A video mixer or switch combines the images recorded by the two television camera systems into a single display. A position sensor attached to the helmet worn by the operator is connected to the video mixer to control the position of the scenes recorded by the two television camera systems on the cathode ray tube display.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION This invention overcomes the aforestated deficiencies of the prior art by providing a head controlled television monitoring system in which two television cameras are employed. The first camera is mounted on a remotely controlled vehicle to provide the customary exterior view from said vehicle. The second television camera is directed toward a control console for the vehicle. Of course, the control console may be at the operators position and the instruments and control positions thereon may be telemetered to the vehicle. The illusion of presence is further enhanced by combining the two views from the respective television cameras into a single cathode ray display. The two images are mixed in the cathode ray tube display in dependence upon a sensed position of the operators head. Thus, when the operator looks forward, he is presented a view of the exterior of the vehicle. However, when he moves his head in a predetermined direction to a predetermined position, the view afforded by the television camera monitoring console is presented on the viewing cathode ray display. In this fashion, an illusion of looking out a transparent. canopied cockpit on the front of the remote controlled vehicle is created with the control console placed adjacent said canopy.

STATEMENT OF THE OBJECTS OF INVENTION It is an object of this invention to provide an improved TV monitor system.

A further object of this invention is the provision of a TV monitoring system adapted for use in remote controlled vehicles.

A further object of this invention is the provision of a stereoscopic television system.

Another object of this invention is to provide a stereo-scopic television system for use in remotely controlled vehicles to enhance the control presence of said vehicles.

See other early Underwater Robots here.