Using existing industrial remotely operated vehicles for deep-sea science


  • Daniel O. B. Jones

Corresponding author: Daniel O. B. Jones, SERPENT Project, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, European Way, Southampton, SO14 3ZH. E-mail:


Since the mid-18th century scientists have been using existing industrial technology for scientific investigation in remote places. This approach, pioneered by Linnaeus and his ‘Apostles’, is being used today to access deep-water environments using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in collaboration with the offshore hydrocarbon industry, particularly through the Scientific and Environmental Remotely operated vehicle Partnership using Existing Industrial Technology (SERPENT) project. Industrial ROVs are well suited for scientific investigation with high quality imaging systems as standard. These have already been used to provide associated ecological information to taxonomic specimens and to describe feeding behaviours of monkfish (Lophius piscatorius) and a galatheid (Munida sarsi). In addition, work-class vehicles have sufficient power and manipulation capacity to interact with the environment, permitting sample collection and experimental assessment of deep-water ecological processes; examples are given of each of these investigations. The increased understanding of deep-water systems is now being used by policy-makers and industry to improve environmental management and monitoring procedures.