Students develop first Egyptian Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) for undersea exploration

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Given the rising global demand for equipment to explore and exploit oil resources at sea, there’s been a global boom in the marine engineering industries sector. In Egypt, four students from the Department of Marine Engineering and Ship Building at the University of Alexandria have designed the first 100% Egyptian Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV).

Pisces Eye ROV was last year’s final project for the four students, Ibrahim Zedan, Muhammad Al-Sayd, Mohamed AbdElsalam, and Mohammed Amr, who call themselves the FAROV Team. The project won first prize in Cairo on Egyptian Engineering Day, as well first prize in the IbTIECar competition with the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) program.

“The main goal behind this project is to launch an ROV industry in Egypt using state-of-the art equipment and technologies in line with the Egyptian industrial application needs and in accordance with Egypt’s climate and environmental conditions. This would save [Egypt] – once it’s completed – [a significant amount of money] that we currently waste on importing such advanced vehicles from abroad,” Zedan says.

Given the extent of the Egyptian coastline, stretching thousands of kilometers along the Mediterranean to the north, and the Red Sea to the east (including the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba), the FAROV team does not exaggerate when they say that the ROV technology could be the cornerstone for the exploration and exploitation of available resources in these extended coastal regions in the next few decades.

ROVs are designed for use by shipping and marine vessel companies for underwater welding and periodic ship examination, as well as by oil companies in their exploration. They can also be used underwater for monitoring, inspection, scanning, burial, and trenching.

Zedan points to the potential for ROVs to make underwater exploration tasks, more efficient: “The ROV technology has saved a lot of time and effort. Underwater air pressure does not allow for divers to go deeper than 600 meters below the surface and to dive for more than a few hours. In ROVs, you can go as deep as 11,000 meters underwater and stay there for months. Despite their tremendously high cost in some cases, they are an indispensable necessity to marine engineering companies.”

The FAROV team has a ways to go before its ROV can perform these functions though. Its ROV can currently work at a depth of up to 100 meters. The vehicle also includes sonar to measure the speed, temperature, and depth of water, scan the seabed and spot obstacles, in addition to measuring the temperature of electronic components and detecting any water leaking into the control room, and last but not least an facilitating navigation through an electronic compass.

The team has faced many barriers in its journey to developing the ROV. The four students still haven’t managed to put the vehicle under a real test in the sea, given that the oil and shipping companies they’ve approached have refused to be involved in any experiments for fear of incurring any potential (unspecified) losses.

Despite that, the project has cost them EGP 60,000 ($8,500 USD), part of which they obtained from RINA Classification Society, an Italian non-governmental classification company that funds small projects in all fields. The project has also been supplied with raw materials and equipment from Alexandria Company for Polyurethane and Sea Sight Company for Fiber Glass.

Now that they have graduated and the project has begun receiving tributes from specialized entities in the marine engineering sector, the FAROV Team is seeking to obtain investment to develop the technical specifications of its ROV, enabling it to compete at a global level. The team is now planning to develop the cameras and communication wires and enhance the vehicle structure to allow it to go deeper than 100 meters.

The team is also planning to launch marketing campaigns for their ROV through their social media pages and Google Adwords in order to reach a larger number of companies working in the field. They’re also looking to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.  

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