Posts Tagged ‘Hughes Aircraft’

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.

Undersea-robots-SMaug63_0005 - Copy - Copy-x640

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.

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1962 – Unmanned Space Mobot (Concept) – Hughes Aircraft (American)

Hughes Space Mobot concept.

John W. Clark, Ph.D.
Orbiting Vehicles
In connection with orbiting vehicles, remote-handling techniques can advantageously be
employed in connection with maintenance and repair, assembly in orbit, and personnel transfer.
Maintenance and repair is, of cause, confined to orbiting vehicles so expensive as to justify the cost of orbiting a repair system rather than orbiting a complete new satellite.
Assembly of large orbiting vehicles may advantageously be accomplished by remote-control techniques. These techniques will permit the assembly of vehicles far too large to orbit in a single payload. Control of the assembly system may be accomplished either from a ground station or from a manned orbiting vehicle.
Personnel transter, as, for example, between a re-entry vehicle and a manned space station may be facilitated by those of remote-control techniques in accomplishing the final contact between the two space vehicles and to accomplishing an airtight closure or junction between these two which will be safe for personnel transfer.
Lunar Applications
Remote-control techniques will find many applications in the exploration and development of the lunar surface for scientific and military purposes. Preliminary operatiins will probably be accomplished by systems committed from the earth. This maybe followed by development of luna sites, also by earth-controlled vehicles.
After the development of lunar sites, manned lunar expeditions may become feasible. Such expeditions will benefit from the availability of sophisticated remote-handling vehicles which can, under control of the pilot of the space ship, accomplish lunar exploration or advance the development of the sites prepared by the earth-controlled Mobots.
Finally, after habitable lunar stations become available, operations of all kinds upon the lunar surface will still be in large part carried out by Mobots under control of the inhabitants of the lunar station.

This discussion excludes consideration of lunar Mobots. It is, of necessity, confined to certain of the problems uniquely applicable to remote handling in connection with orbiting space vehicles.
The meet important of the senses, vision, requires particular consideration under space conditions. The harsh illumination will require unusual control of the TV cameras, and also may require specially conrolled illuminations an aid to working on the shadowed side of orbiting objects. The lack of background and of vertical reference are serious psychological problems. Consideration may well be given to artificially inserting both background and vertical reference within thee TV system so that the operator's TV monitors present him information similar to that to which he is accustomed.
These requirements are superimposed upon those applicable to any remote-handling system. Sufficient experience has now been gained with operation of Hughes Mobots to make one confident that adequate vision for performing complex or precise tasks can be furnished to a trained operator by the appropriate use of two or more conventional TV cameras. Additional quantitative studies concerning the relative utilily of multi-camera, stereo, and other methods of vision, with specific reference to the conditions existing in space, will be most valuable.
Dynamics of a Gravity-Free Environment
Operations under orbiting conditions present a novel situation since on is  concerned with acceleration rather than velocities and a relatively small system of limited power consumption can direct the motions of quite heavy objects if appropriate consideration is given to their inertia. For example, an arm capable of lifting an earth weight of 40 pounds can impart a useful acceleration to much heavier masses under weightless conditions. This arm can move a 500-pound mass 5 feet in 2.8 seconds in an optimal situation in which a mass is accelerated for one-half the time and decelerated for one-half the time. Clearly, spacial operator training will be required to obtain successful performance under these conditions, so different from those to which we are accustomed.
Command and Data Link
In cases in which control is provided from a manned space craft, the command and data link can be transmitted from controlling  vessel to Mobot via cable. The time division multiplex command system utilizing trinary digital coding is particularly suitable since it requires only two conductors in the cable. This system has been described in detail in an article by Don A. Campbell (ref. 1). Situations in which radio command is required are also well handled by this same system, which minimizes bandwidth required of the communication channel. The data link which conveys vision, sensory, and other analog information from Mobot to command station can employ the same cable as does the command link. In radio-controlled systems a separate data link is required. The detailed considerations, primarily the trade-offs between power and bandwidth, are different in each case. Particular attention must be paid to utilizing TV systems in which minimum video bandwidth is required in comparison with the conventional RTCA• standard system which is quite wasteful of bandwidth.
Arm Geometry
Numerous space applications are best handled by specific mechanisms tailored to perform specific tasks. No general comments can be made about such mechanisms. There is, however, a definite need for general-purpose handling mechanisms. To meet this need, the Hughes Mark 2 Arm has been developed (figure 1). Its three articulations are each capable of +-90deg motion in either plane. The tong rotates continuously. Its parallel jaws open to a 4-inch width or close completely. They will rotate continuously in either direction. This arm is completely self-contained. All actuators and other mechanisms are included within the arm structure. The only auxiliary space required is that occupied bt the command system. This arm is not presented as the ultimate arm design, but is presented as indicative of a general-purpose arm capable of handling a wide variety of manipulative requirements in the presence of obstacles or in cramped quarters.
•    Radio Technical Committee for Aeronautics
In connection with satellite and orbital vehicle handling arms, only two methods of locomotion appear feabible. These are rockets or jets for traversing the space between one orbiting object and another, and auxiliary arms for moving about on or in a large orbiting vehicle. The preliminary sketches of space Mobots (figures 2 and 3[7]) indicate a four-armed Mobot based on this concept. In general, two of its arms are employed for moving it about in connection with its operations on a orbiting vehicle, while the other two are free for performing any manipulations required.
The Space Environment
The space environment (high vacuum, extremes of temperature, zero gravity, etc.) will have controlling influence to the detailed design of the components which make up any space Mobot. Fortunately, adequate design information is becoming available upon which one can base such engineering design. Further environmental test facilities are becoming available in which components or complete systems can be tested to insure their performance in the space environment.
The above discussions of the role of remote handling in space leads to the preliminary concepts shown in figures 2 and 3[7]. These Mobots employ jets or rockets to move about in space. They are furnished with four ams and two "eyes." The four arms, which are identical, can be utilized for moving the Mobot about on the vehicle on which it is working, positioning it during performance of the task, or guiding or manipulating the objects handled. Even a relatively small Mobot, such as those in figures 2 and 3[7], can handle quite  heavy objects in space if the operator is properly trained in the dynamics of space operations as outlined in the above discussion of the gravity-free environment.
These Mobots may be controlled by cable from a manned space ship or from a ground station by radio beams. In the latter case, it may be necessary to utilize orbiting vehicles as relay points for control of Mobots which do not stay within the visual horizon of any one ground station.
The work performed to date at Hughes on the electronically controlled remote-control systems to perform complex operations has demonstrated the feasibility of this method of accomplishing useful work an a hazardous environment. Work now in progress demonstrates the feasibility of designing mechanical and electronic structures which will perform in a satisfactory manner in the environmental conditions which prevail in space. Space MOBOTS are technically feasible and can be engineered economically and effectively to accomplish any given tasks which may be placed upon them by our Space program,
1. Campbell, D. A., "Multiplex Circuits for Control of a Robot," Electronics, 22 January 1960.

From 1960, Ray Goertz, who invented electrically remote manipulators for the nuclear industry, together with his team at Argonne Nuclear Laboratories (ANL), were engaged by NASA to specify teleoperator configurations for the Lunar space program. The result is illustrated above.

It should be noted that floating vehicles share one problem. This is their inability to stay immobile relative to the object on which they must act. Hence, they are equipped with docking arms, other than the manipulator(s) directly intended to execute the task, to attach them to the object of their task, whether this is another satellite or an underwater oil platform.

Most of the Hughes Aircraft Mobot concepts were based around the Mobot Mk II arm.

Mobot Gripper specification.

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

See other early Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar and Space Robots here.

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1959 – Lunar Robot Mobot (Concept) – Hughes Aircraft (American)


FIRST EXPLORER of the moon may be a machine. Roaming the crust, it would collect samples of rocks and dust with mechanical fingers, under remote control of spacemen remaining safely within a landed rocket ship. Hughes Aircraft company designers say it could be patterned closely after their Mobot, a mobile mechanical manipulator whose dexterity inspired the idea.

Source: Popular Science July, 1959.

Another Hughes Mobot concept showing similar arm configuration.

See other early Teleoperators here.

See other early Lunar Robots here.

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1964 – MOBOT Mark II – Hughes Aircraft (American)

Robot Pouring Liquid From Flask 
Elbow Bender. Showing off its light touch, new mobot Mark II prepares to pour liquid chemical from one flask to another under command of operator Stan Pearlman at control console. The new remote controlled mobile robot built by Hughes Aircraft company has inflated pads on Hands for delicates jobs, ten movements in each arm. TV camera "eyes" permit operator to view the Mobot performing jobs areas too dangerous for man.

The 3 photos above are of Colleen Adams with MOBOT II.

See pdf

MOBOT Mk II Arm and Gripper spceification.

Mobot Gripper specification.

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

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