Sheriff’s Office has new set of under water eyes

Remote Operated Vehicle adds safety to diving operations

by Chris Dillmann

Sun sailor Newspapers

Sometimes when a machine can do the work of a human, it keeps humans out of harms way.

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool to help them get a better idea what’s submerged below water. The Remote Operated Vehicle, or ROV, can provide a set of eyes to help aid location efforts.

The Remote Operated Vehicle provides the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office an extra, and safer, set of eyes underwater. The ROV is attached to a 500-foot rope and can submerge to depths of 1,000 feet. (Sun Sailor photo by Chris Dillmann)

The Remote Operated Vehicle provides the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office an extra, and safer, set of eyes underwater. The ROV is attached to a 500-foot rope and can submerge to depths of 1,000 feet. (Sun Sailor photo by Chris Dillmann)

The device, about the size of a remotely controlled car, is the first underwater camera for the sheriff’s office, primarily aimed at minimizing risk to divers. The vehicle was purchased in December 2012 and put into operation March 2013 with more than 10 deputies trained for more than 400 hours to use the vehicle.

“It saves us time and effort while also helping with the safety and security of our divers,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “I will not put my deputies in harms way needlessly.”

This year alone there have been 12 near-drownings and six drownings in 2013 in Hennepin County. The vehicle provides a quick underwater glimpse, which saves time later.

Volunteer diver with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol Jason Johnson says it’s extremely helpful because divers are restricted by a contained tank of air.

“We have a limited amount of time that we can spend under the water,” Johnson said. “Any time we can’t get back to the surface immediately that is a dangerous situation.”

Add getting snagged and it reduces the time under water even more.

Being able to minimize risk to divers and providing a better chance of locating what needs to be found has another purpose.

“When you’re missing a loved one, this is they type of equipment you want to use and deploy,” Stanek said.

The ROV cost approximately $151,000, $130,000 of that was paid for through a federal grant. The additional $20,000 came through private contributions, including $14,000 from the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District.

Deployed about 12 times so far, Stanek says the most recent incident was the car that went into the Mississippi River near the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis. The remotely controlled vehicle successfully located a body in a submerged car.

Attached to a 500-foot cord tethered to a boat, the vehicle can submerge to 1,000-foot depths and travel at about six knots (about 1.5 mph).

 

Contact Chris Dillmann at chris.dillmann@ecm-inc.com

 
up arrow