Advanced ROVs - Remotely Operated Vehicles - for Underwater Inspections

Murky Water Search & Rescue Using ROVs

Feature Article by Deep Trekker

In this article, Deep Trekker discusses the use of its Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) coupled with navigational sonar systems to aid with murky water search and rescue/recovery operations.

Every Deep Trekker underwater drone, known in the industry as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), comes standard with a built-in HD camera. If you require a sharper image, these submersible robots can be upgraded to a 4K capable camera, which provides even greater imagery and contrast. Even with the most enhanced of cameras, the nemesis of underwater filming has always been turbid waters. However, zero visibility in murky waters may now be an obstacle rendered obsolete, as technological advances in ROV navigational sonar systems have given underwater ROVs the gift of sight in even the darkest of waters.


View of a ship hull in murky water from a Deep Trekker ROV

Murky water inherently is dangerous to navigate within. Below the surface, visibility can range from a few feet to a few inches away; in some cases, the water is so dark and dense you would not be able to see your hand, millimeters from your face. In conditions where visibility is dangerously low, murky water search & rescue operations are extremely difficult to perform. As it is impossible to ascertain the parameters of the dive area, safety becomes a greater concern for divers facing unknown and potential precarious conditions.


Though the human eye cannot see through the water, technology is providing individuals the ability to navigate and identify targets in murky water. The utilization of this new technology has proven to be of immediate benefit to Search and Rescue teams. In outfitting themselves with navigational sonar systems, first responders and volunteer search and rescue organizations have begun to see the benefit of this cutting edge technology. Sonar has granted greater success rates in finding lost or discarded targets, and the execution of safe and effective recovery missions.

Side scan sonar systems, for instance, are towed behind boats to conduct a sweep of a large body of water. The entire area would be divided into a search grid. The side scan would then be dragged throughout the entire grid and each area would be checked twice to ensure that the area has been completely explored.

Target Identification

Once the side scan has completed its sweep of the area, search and rescue teams are able to mark areas of interest where their target may be located. Traditionally, divers are deployed at this point and must navigate through the murky water and hope to come across their mark. With zero visibility, these divers must rely on touch to move around and to locate their target.

This process is repeated until the mission is complete. However, divers have a limited amount of time they can spend below the water before it becomes even more dangerous for them; additionally, each operation has a maximum depth they are able to dive. Depending on the water temperature and other external factors, divers can be limited to just an hour under the water. If they are under for any longer period of time, the divers are at risk of hypothermia.

Underwater Drone Murky Water Search Alternative

Remotely Operated Vehicles are becoming more widely used in search and rescue missions. Not to replace divers – but work in tandem. Similar to traditional methods, after the side scan has completed its sweep and areas of interest have been identified, the ROV can be quickly deployed to identify the target.

In a murky water search, the standard camera on the underwater drone will work similar to a human eye; they will have a hard time navigating through the water. This is where the navigational sonar systems come into play. From the surface, the ROV pilot navigates through the low visibility water solely using the sonar’s heads up display (HUD); similar to how a pilot would rely on their plane’s instruments when they fly through a fog.

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Identifying the Target

Once the underwater drone successfully identifies the target, divers are able to follow the ROV’s tether directly to the target and prepare it for retrieval. If the location is a crime scene, the ROV can record and document the area to assist in the investigation. Most importantly, the diver’s safety can be closely monitored from the surface while the retrieval is being conducted.


The Deep Trekker DTG3 and REVOLUTION Remotely Operated Vehicles are designed to be completely portable. This is made possible by the internal rechargeable batteries allowing the entire unit to fit into one carrying case. The ROV can be operated up to 8 hours on a full charge which provides search teams the ability to work beyond what a normal diver would be able to do. A 90-minute recharge is all it needs to be back and ready for another day’s work.

Portability of an ROV is extremely important during a search and rescue mission. With bodies of water being located in some of the most remote locations on the planet, air transportation or on foot travel may be the only access; since the Deep Trekker DTG2 is housed in one carrying case, it can be transported and deployed in isolated areas.

Additionally, the underwater drone is capable of being equipped with a grabber arm to pick up a submerged target and retrieve it to the surface.

deep trekker grabber arm

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Posted by Phoebe Grinter Unmanned Systems Technology’s digital editor and copywriter Phoebe takes a fresh and enthusiastic approach to researching, writing and posting the latest unmanned technology updates, and in managing the UST social channels. Connect & Contact